BWW Review: SINGLE BLACK FEMALE at Buriel Clay examines the hardships of finding Mr. Right for two successful, single Black females.
The trials and tribulations of two thirty-something middle class Single Black Females (SBFs) is presented in a series of comedic vignettes in Lisa B. Thompson's 1999 effort that is being simultaneously being produced here and in Ft. Worth, Texas. Starting with the premise that their niche is invisible and ignored, these gals look at their peer images presented in media; Claire Huxtable, Diahann Carrol's Julia, Anita Hill, Condoleezza Rice and of course Oprah and elaborate on how they've attempted to manipulate those stereotypes into a workable model for finding love and fulfilment. Stepping into this feminine racial quagmire, I thought "what does this gay male audience member have in common"- seems quite a lot. The search for love is universal, irregardless of gender, race and class.
These women are a mess, caught up in societal expectations, looking for positive results derived from a flawed model. We sort of laugh at their striving for middle class perfection as defined by the magazines they subscribe to, one early vignette being a guide to the 'must-haves' of successful women- designer clothing, the right sheets, bowls and liquor. Conspicuous consumption be damned, these ladies must have to strive at the expense for being "three paychecks away from being on welfare". This gay guy's been there, done that.
Stats are thrown out representing how difficult it is for single black females to land Mr. Right. They delve into their pursuit with a mix of religious fervor and self-deprecating reluctance. Actors Tanika Baptiste, a successful professor) and Paige Mayes (a lawyer) cover all the bases here; from two-timing lovers, online dating, promiscuity and the well-intentioned meddling Aunties. The show, directed by AeJay Mitchell, merges a panel discussion with sketch comedy, both actors playing a slew of roles both male and female. Vignettes are subtitled appropriately, like the very funny visit to the gynecologist's office called "Sexual Suspect".
Baptiste and Mayes make the best of the material which gets a little redundant over its two acts. Yes, we can all identify with their plight and I did feel empathetic. But the play can use some editing and conciseness and get to its point quicker. There's some gentle ribbing on gay marriage, more sour grapes than actual resentment when Paige says she refuses to go to another commitment ceremony cause the couple only lasted six months.
Both women have their strong points, but too often the interplay between them feels false and out of whack. The comedy should come from the material as opposed to mere schtick. The two do have their strong friendship to base their appeal on, even when their philosophies differ. SBFs even with their education and talents are just as unlucky in love as any other group. This single gay male felt a mild case of schadenfreude (pleasure derived by someone from another person's misfortune) knowing I wasn't alone in my search for love.
Single Black Female continues through November 10, 2019 at the Buriel Clay Theatre, African American Art and Culture Complex, 762 Fulton St., San Francisco. Tickets available by calling: 415-474-8800 or at www.lhtsf.org
Photos courtesy of Chocolate Beats Media, Lorraine Hansberry Theatre