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Review: AMERICAN MOOR at Karamu

Brilliant acting and superb script make AMERICAN MOOR a must see at Karamu.

Review: AMERICAN MOOR at Karamu
AMERICAN MOOR, which is now on stage at Karamu, America's oldest Black Theatre, is a compelling exploration of Shakespeare, race, and America. It is brilliantly performed by Keith Hamilton Cobb, who is also the play's author.

The story-line examines what happens when an experienced African American actor, who is well versed and trained in classical theater, auditions for the lead-role in Othello. "He is met with prejudice, racism and privilege while negotiating with a young, white director who presumes to understand Shakespeare's Moorish prince far better than the performer standing before him."

Certainly, the auditioning actor, as we quickly find out, has reasons to seethe. How do you show everything you can bring to a complicated role in five minutes to an arrogant, self-proclaimed misguided "expert"?

But this actor, played by Cobb and called Keith, to acknowledge the semi-autobiographical nature of the play, has other beefs beyond the absurdity of this situation.

The white director shows little respect for the actor, by showing up late. With no explanation of why he is tardy, his first comments are about Keith's height: "Man! You're tall!" (Yes, Cobb is tall, probably 6' 5, and big. His overly tight shirt, which is straining to cover his massive gym toned, muscle-rippling body, makes him imposing.). Then, the director sets out to explain, in a pedantic, self-superior way, to an actor with twice his experience, exactly the psyche and motivations of black Othello.

The racial tension of the situation is quickly apparent and the reality of the actor's frustration centers on the fact that what unfolds is not only about performing OTHELLO but also, about being Othello: a black man trying to find a path to excellence in a society anxious to keep him "in his place."

In a tour-de-force performance, Cobb gives a master class on Shakespeare and, through electric storytelling, explores the inequities of life as a Black actor and life as a Black man.
The set, an open stage with the brick backwall on display, contains empty chairs and several massive columns. The lighting and underlying music help set the right moods.

Capsule judgment: For anyone who wants to experience a performance that balances dynamism and lyricism with amazing skill, AMERICAN MOOR is a must-see." This is a sensational night of theatre. Bravo!!!!

Tickets: Call 216-795-7070 or

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