The Awesome Good Negro by Vicky Cornblath
Truly outstanding plays are not as common as butterflies. Anyone who sees the plays at the Goodman Theatre, however, might not agree so readily . The Goodman is putting on another fabulous play, not the first and certainly not the last display of ingenious craftsmanship to grace their stage.
The Good Negro, written by Tracey Scott Wilson, is about the civil rights movement according to the Playbill, but in truth it is about the people trying to bring about the movement.This is not a historical performance looking to educate the audience about a time period; it is asking the audience to understand that all people have faults. The strong have their weaknesses and the good can set off down the wrong path. This play is set during the civil rights movement, but the characters could be from any time.
The Goodman’s giant stage in the Albert theatre is completely covered in wood, including the floor, ceiling and walls. The only set pieces are a few wooden chairs and two wooden tables. Lights create a cross for the church scenes while other lights strung across the front of the stage make vague outlines of rooms. The simplicity of it works wonders with the story line, but the gloss and shine of the wood betrays its expense. Taking place in a town with little money and an abundance of of violence the wood is obviously too expensive. It looks nice, certainly, but it does not match the story.
The acting, of course, is magnificent. However, I find it prudent to make a special note in the case of The Good Negro. No actor outshines another or is anything short of extraordinary. To have an audience cheering on characters is a wondrous experience for both actor and audience alike.
Writing a review without mentioning the humor of the show would be to sell it short. So short, it would basically be calling Shaquille O’Neal short. This play is rollicking. Barely a scene goes by without laughter and smiles. The serious message Wilson portrays as much through jokes as heart wrenching monologues. The hilarity is perfectly intertwined with the sorrow, so neither device feels to heavily relied upon.
In short, see this play. Every race, religion and individual can find the tremor of truth hidden in the animated dialogue. If this is the only play you see for three years it will be worth it.