BWW Review: THE BLACK CLOWN at Mostly Mozart Festival
THE BLACK CLOWN, as envisioned by Langston Hughes, is a metaphor for the Afro-American as a figure of entertainment in a white world. It is also a series of verses by Hughes. In this performance piece devised by Davone Tines and Michael Schachter, the clown is examined though the lens of history and given life in a series of impressive vignettes, employing song, acting, and dance. An eclectic mix of music is heard, mainly soul, gospel, Black choral, and spiritual. Various verses of the poem, which is lengthy, are brought to life by the extremely talented performers; some examples follow:
THREE HUNDRED YEARS, a movement piece, was accompanied by a daring use of silhouettes, portraying years of enslavement.
FREEDOM featured an actor portraying Abraham Lincoln (on stilts) with a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation. Freedom was not as promising in actuality as it sounded on paper. The reality was accompanied by another set of problems. This was represented by the ensemble carrying pieces of chain as well as a large noose. Freedom ended up being another form of servitude.
SOMETIMES I FEEL LIKE A MOTHERLESS CHILD was probably the pinnacle of the evening, taking the form of a gospel funeral, with the performers stepping beyond the proscenium into the audience area. The spiritual was performed in a deeply moving manner.
Davone Tines has a rich, deep, burnished voice that filled the house, extremely expressive. The ensemble sang gorgeously and danced up a storm. Special mention to the orchestra which played flawlessly.
The sets were simple and included some white panels, a ladder, and a wooden chair, which stood in as a coffin in one of the aforementioned pieces.
Kudos to all for an exciting, heartfelt event.
THE BLACK CLOWN plays through Saturday at the Gerald Lynch Theater at John Jay College.