Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Wigger"

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note: entire contents copyright 2005 by Larry Stark


Written & Directed by Braden Weeks

Production Designed by Karen Weeks
Production Manager Jennifer Lee Williams

Don............................Jason Cross
Billy..........................Will Howell
Airline Attendant Voice-over...Karen Weeks
Cab-Driver Voice-over........Mike Teixeira

The new play from the As Yet To Be Theatre Company, now at The Devanaughn Theatre space,was written and directed by their Artistic Director Braden Weeks. It is a teaching-play, broadly written and acted, that tries to turn prejudice on its head. Will Howell plays Billy, an eighteen-year-old en route to California for college interviews who found his soul watching Black Entertainment T-V and hangin' wit' da homies roun' high school. He runs into a 30-year-old Accounts Payable executive (Jason Cross) waiting for the same flight out of Logan to cement his YUMPie position with the firm on the eve of his marriage. But the man in the Armani suit and tie is Black while young Billy's the --- "Wigger".

If Brecht had written this, they'd wear big signs around their necks. Here baggy Hip-Hop clothes and physical over-acting perform the same function. Since the only Blacks Billy knows are all-front adolescent put-on artists, he mis-underestimates this "Brother" and insults him first with a Blackster stereotype, then as an Oreo ofay, and its late in the play that the inarticulate defenses of his attempts to "just be ME, man!" show any underpinnings of sociological insight --- and by then they seem based not on study or experience but simply on the technical necessities of the plot. The pseudo-White businessman wins all the early rounds on points before any of the kid's jabs begin to land.

It may have been a mistake for the playwright to direct his own play. On opening night it looked like the first off-book read-through, with the two actors showing the broad surface of each character but never saying a line as though it came from a person in genuine response to the other person's words. Two billboards exchanged cliche's, all the time speaking past each other toward the minds of the audience.

Given more investment in character than mere ideology, this play could take on subtlety and insight --- if, as with many new plays, it gets some "tightening". It takes Weeks two little "preface" scenes to toss his antagonists at each other, and after an hour and a half there's a three-years-later epilogue that adds little save time and overkill to an already obvious message.

But that's why new plays open in Boston: to give playwright, performers, and director a chance to test all those words against Boston's tough audience to find out strengths and weaknesses. By final performance, this too could transform into a classic. It worked for "Oklahoma!" didn't it?


"Wigger" (24 February ONLY)
The Devanaughn Theatre (in The Piano Factory) 791 Tremont Street, BOSTON MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide