Kirsten Greenidge’s new play, BALTIMORE (running through Feb. 28th @ B.U. Studio Theatre on Huntington Ave.) is a measured, deliberate examination of how we deal with race and racism in the twenty first century. Greenidge draws inspiration from writers like Countee Cullen (whose Harlem Renaissance poem supplies Greenidge her title) and Toni Morrison (whose The Bluest Eye is a heartbreaking story about an African-American child who wants to be white).
The action of the play swirls around an act of racist graffiti in a college dorm which houses most of the students of color. The white “artist” in question thinks the drawing is “a joke” in this post-racial era and she doesn’t see why everyone is so upset. The late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, no less, opined last session that racism is a mere relic of the past. Lord knows, plenty of white people cite President Obama as evidence. (Then how do they explain the horrifying epidemic of young Black men killed by police? But I digress.)
For some reason the actors in the BCAP/New Rep co-production deliver Greenidge’s thoughtful, considered dialogue as if this were a Mamet play. Alas, that halting, pausing Mamet style of speech only serves to make the actors look like they’ve forgotten their lines.
Speaking of lines, the sightlines of three separate playing areas necessitated my swiveling my head like an owl to see directly behind me. Since I’m not a feathered creature, when I turned around as far as I could, rows of audience members were directly in front of me and not the stage. One audience member pulled my focus right to her, as she gesticulated and threw her hands up to her face a number of times, sometimes covering her eyes. At first I thought she was someone in terrible distress.
Then I noticed she was mouthing dialogue. When I had both the actors and her in my field of vision, I realized they were synchronized as if she were willing their words and gestures. Was she someone’s mother who had heard the lines so many times that she was on automatic pilot? The director? Mrs. Worthington?
The point is, however, I was so distracted that I cannot write a cogent review. Sorry, Kirsten.