port of harlem magazine
woolly mammoth theatre
Ain’t No Mo – In DC – See It Now, Headed for Broadway
Sep 22 – Oct 05, 2022

jon hudson odom

jon hudson odom

Another play at Woolly Mammoth Theater in Washington, DC is headed for Broadway. The funny, but thought provoking “Ain’t No Mo,” is now playing though Sun, Oct 9.

The show opens with Peaches, a Kente-dressed, natural styled wigged person screaming to the audience, “Welcome your XXXXX XXXXX.”  It’s at that moment that I knew I was in for yet another self-proclaimed Woolly “pushes beyond perceived boundaries,” experience at the comfortable D Street, NW theater.

Artist Director Maria Manuela Goyaness calls the play “absurdist satire.” Initially, I called the series of vignettes, sick, as writer Jordan E. Cooper rolled out slice of life skits that portrayed the “worst” of African American life.
Yes, though the satire was absolutely absurd, it was eye-opening and hilarious.

The first segment presents the Nov4, 2008 funeral of the “Brother RightToComplain,” who dies after the election of Barack Obama. Later the preacher asks the mourning congregation to turn to your neighbor and say “the President is my Nxxxxx,” - -  repeatedly. The audience participates.

The performances continued to depict the most questionable slices of African American life as the “Real Baby Mamas of the South Side” skit presented a talk show and someone in the audience said above a whisper “The Real Show.” I wasn’t too sure to be disgusted or defeated until the dispute between the “born” Black women and the “transracial” Black woman – as part of the play - broke out.  

Call me slow, but then the play became too serious to laugh with as the transracial person defended her reasons for not changing her sex, but her race. Creative, I thought.

Then comic relief came flooding down when the transracial woman retorted a line borrowed from The Color Purple: “All my life I have had to fight  . . ."  Yes, though the satire was absolutely absurd, it was eye-opening and hilarious.

Cooper says he was inspired by George C. Wolfe’s 1986 play, “The Colored Museum.” (The original 1986 off-Broadway cast included Loretta Devine as did the 1991 TV broadcast.)  Yes, the parodies delivered through vignettes reflect the 1986 show, but while Wolfe was biting, Cooper snaps - - very hard.

Peaches delivered a great line on the irony of being oppressed by those calling for the end of their own oppression.
Jon Hudson Odom as Peaches was as great as Peaches was grand. (Odom also played in Mammoth’s “Shipwreck, A History Play About 2017”) “Similar to Kelsa (Eva Reign), in Anything’s Possible, Peaches delivered a great line on the irony of being oppressed by those calling for the end of their own oppression.

The setting helped set the stage for this unpredictable ride as Blacks prepared for the last flight designed to remove all African people from the United State and resettle them in Africa. The gate at the American airport:  1619.  The airline: African American Air.  First stop:  Dakar.

Africanist Keith Crawford found the play “entertaining.”  While tackling how we identify our Blackness and what defines Blackness, the play he says, “does not explore the relationship between Africans and African Americans in this country, and certainly not on the continent.”

In a similar strain, I found one comment that lingered through the play on “Blackness” terribly flawed.  It was a comment about some Hispanics being willing to take any empty seats on the final flight to Dakar. When a seat became available, agent Peaches yelled, “Lopez, a seat has become available,” as if a person named Brian Flores, the NFL coach who is now suing the league on the behalf of all Blacks, isn’t African, too.
Note:  Woolly produced “A Strange Fruit” in 2021, which is currently on Broadway and won the Tony Award for Best Musical and Michael R. Jackson won the award for best book of a musical earlier this year.

Opens on Broadway, November 3. “Not since the original "Dreamgirls," have I been so moved by a piece of theatre. I knew it would take something extraordinary to finally lure me to Broadway, and Ain’t No Mo’ is it,” says Oscar-nominated director Lee Daniels ("Precious"), a lead producer with Brian Anthony Moreland.

Live Reading: "The Colored Museum," free, Mon, Sep 26, 8p, Woolly Mammoth, RSVP.

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