BWW Review: Black Theatre Troupe Presents SINGLE BLACK FEMALE
Backed by a series of introductory graphs depicting the social and economic challenges of African-American families, two educated, middle-class, single African-American women take center stage to redirect their focus on the specific dilemmas of the single black female.
In Lisa B. Thompson's 2006 comedy, SINGLE BLACK FEMALE, theirs is a surgical exercise, dissecting with laser-like and acerbic accuracy the stereotypes and expectations imposed upon SBF's ~ the gamut of possible other interpretations of the abbreviation spelled out in rib-tickling detail.
Melvina Jones-Leslie (SBF #1) plays a professor of literature, Cynnita Agent (SBF #2) an attorney. The two are confidantes and commentators, direct and unrestrained in laying out what they define as the crisis of the single black female. Their on-stage chemistry, full of flair and vitality, as a dynamic duo of storytelling and simulations perfectly suits the playwright's intentions and director David Hemphill's vision. The setting for their vignettes is an upscale finely appointed apartment in Harlem (designed by Brunella Provvidente) that reflects their status and accomplishments.
They are women of intelligence, achievement, and character who have no blinders on when it comes to society's assaults on race and gender. Their menu of afflictions is long ~ variations on the themes of externally imposed expectations, the difficulties in finding the right and worthy man, the ironies of interracial and on-line dating, the double standards with which they must contend, the quest for meaningful relations and for the essence of success and fulfillment. They take a scalpel to each adversity and expose the sore points in a way that makes you laugh just enough to feel the pain.
They are ever in good but sardonic humor, taking humble shots at their own peccadilloes while unwaveringly piercing the purveyors of negative imagery: "Who can forget the long reign of Aunt Jemima, Sapphire and Jezebel" or "the supreme ghetto ringmaster, Jerry Springer?" They ride hard on the self-demeaning hip-hop "video tramps" and share the frustration that (at that time) the most eligible bachelor may have been Public Enemy's Flavor Flav. They are riled by the Tiger Woods paradox ~ that while black women enhanced their standings with a college education and professional career advancement, he "marries a nanny!"
Thirteen years have passed since the play premiered. In the age of Oprah and Michelle and MeToo, one may ask if and to what degree things have changed or improved. On the other hand, it's probably more than fair to say (to adapt an historic adage) that old stereotypes never die, heck, they don't even fade away. Which is why Black Theatre Troupe's production of SINGLE BLACK FEMALE carries a righteous kick in the consciousness and merits your attention.
SINGLE BLACK FEMALE runs through June 9th at the Helen K. Mason Performing Arts Center in Phoenix.
Photo credit to Laura Durant ~ L to R: Melvina Jones-Leslie, Cynnita Agent
Black Theatre Troupe ~ http://new-wp.blacktheatretroupe.org/ ~ Venue: Helen K. Mason Performing Arts Center ~ 1333 East Washington Street-Phoenix, AZ ~ Box Office: 602-258-8129