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Review: Chisa Hutchinson's Brilliance on Display in Contemporary American Theater Festival's WHITELISTED

Whitelisted runs as a part of the Contemporary American Theatre Festival, through July 31 at the Frank Center.

Review:  Chisa Hutchinson's Brilliance on Display in Contemporary American Theater Festival's WHITELISTED

One of the most eagerly anticipated premieres at this year's Contemporary Theater Festival is Chisa Hutchinson's "Whitelisted." Hutchinson has found a home over the years at CATF, and has gained a passionate following in Shepherdstown because of her unique combination of whimsy, compassion, not to mention a wicked sense of humor rooted in a strong commitment to social justice.

Inspired by Jordan Peele's blockbuster horror film "Get Out," Hutchinson has crafted a Dickensian morality play with "Whitelisted," set in a predictably bland, hoity-toity, newly-renovated white lady's apartment in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Those of a certain age will recall that Bed-Stuy is the setting for Spike Lee's classic "Do the Right Thing," which features a similar theme of racial conflict.

The new arrival, a maker of perfect boutique dollhouses (talk about a metaphor), clearly has little patience for the ways of the neighborhood and her neighbors, from the panhandlers who used to live there to the kids who delight in ringing a bell on their bikes as they pedal by.

As Rebecca the newcomer, Kate MacCluggage offers us a case-study in privilege and willful ignorance. This character clearly feels entitled to speak her mind, with one jaw-droppingly outrageous line after another. MacCluggage's recitation of the far-right cathechism is letter-perfect, and throws the mirror up to folks who assume it's perfectly normal to talk this way (breaking news: it isn't, it never was).

Truth be known we all know people like this; not only do they live next door, they're on the air, spouting garbage galore about people of color while claiming they haven't got a racist bone in their body. Hutchinson contrasts Rebecca's tirades with the calm decency of a security technician, Diego, who has been brought in to install security cameras in the (vain) attempt to discover who is responsible for the strange events taking place in Rebecca's perfect little world. Carlo Alban's turn as Diego is a gem, a true mensch, and he is especially effective as MacCluggage's straight man, stoically absorbing Rebecca's nonstop invective while cautiously planning Diego's response.

Rebecca is eventually confronted by the ghost responsible for wrecking her new home-Yvette Franklin (the imposing, empathetic Valerie Lewis), who until recently lived there with her daughter Maya (played here by charming local actress Janiya Ross). Yvette's story, at first only hinted at, finally comes out in a sequence that speaks to the pain, and the willful neglect of working families in traditionally black neighborhoods.

The final encounter between Yvette and Rebecca, between haunter and haunted, brings us into the world of those whom upwardly-mobile whites have replaced, with unforgettable results. Suffice it to say that Hutchinson flips Peele's script elegantly and poignantly here, in a way that truly opens hearts and minds.

Scenic designer David M. Barber has created just the sort of antiseptic, finely-appointed apartment that is ripe for haunting. Its appearance of solidity is easily punctured, through a series of hauntings and visitations which often pop up in the kitchen, appearing through one wall, bursting out of another, in classic horror-show fashion. It's clear that director Kristin Horton and her talented stage crew have had entirely too much fun staging the supernatural special effects, pushing the boundaries once again of the Frank Center's potential.

"Whitelisted" is the keystone of this year's festival; it's a great way to kick off your weekend in Shepherdstown, as you sample the great work on offer at the Festival.

Running Time: 90 minutes without Intermission.

Whitelisted runs as a part of the Contemporary American Theatre Festival, through July 31 at the Frank Center, Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

For tickets visit https://cloud.broadwayworld.com/rec/ticketclick.cfm?fromlink=2185403®id=14&articlelink=https%3A%2F%2Fcatf.org%2Fbuy-tickets%2F?utm_source=BWW2022&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=article&utm_content=bottombuybutton1 . You can also email the box office at boxoffice@catf.org or call them at 681-240-2283.




From This Author - Andrew White


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