Gordon and I went to Appropriate at the Taper last night. Hmmmm. It was written by Branden Jacobs- Jenkins, an emerging black playwright. He must have been tired of being boxed in writing about black people so the cast was white–maybe his attempt at universality. I think the play is about the lack of forgiveness–in dysfunctional families and race relations. His influences seem to be Albee and Letts–lots of screaming but it got a little tired. The female lead was particularly strident but her interpretation was rather one-note. He may have wanted August: Osage County but he didn’t have Estelle Parsons. The rest of the cast were also one-note. Could have been the writing; to me it sounded like black people in white face. Or it could have been lack of sub-text on the part of the actors. We had to have the obligatory ‘shock’ scene–in this case, a teenage boy masturbating. We didn’t have to see his ‘junk’ but we had to go through the motions. Maybe the scene was thrown in to wake up the audience; in my opinion the play should be cut by forty-five minutes. Towards the end I was checking my watch and wishing it would be over. It had some good laugh lines and I think it might be more interesting with a good edit–everybody needs an editor; believe me, I know. And there was actually some thought put into it. With reference to race, the big brother finally yells at the stereotypical Liberal with reference to lynchings, “Okay, I’m white! What do you want me to do about? Go back in time and stop it? I can’t. I’ve never done any of these things. Quit screaming at me!” Another  young black playwright (can’t think of his name) made basically the same statement in a play last season so apparently the next generation of black playwrights is listening. I also remember August Wilson saying (it was hurriedly hushed up), “Black people mess up and white people fix the messes. I think black people should start appreciating what white people do before they quit cleaning up the messes.” Actually that’s a paraphrase because I can’t find the quote and Wilson is dead. Anyway, I think the writer is talented but the play needs work. It’s too long and too loud. And as Gordon says, “It’s hard to decide who to hate most.” No heroes here. And no forgiveness of any sins no matter how long ago they occurred, even if there’s a question whether or not they actually happened, or how small they were.


About Barbara Schnell

I've dedicated my life to full-time employment avoidance. I've been an actress, renovated a 1921 California Bungalow, set a cash-winning record on $25,000 Pyramid, and came in last on Jeopardy. I live in Los Angeles with my patient husband and two cats.
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