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Thoughts of a Colored Man

In the wake of so much social unrest over the past couple of years, as we reckon with the heinous, unprovoked killings of so many African American men and women and the too-late realization for many of us that we live in a country riddled by the results of systemic racism, it’s hardly surprising that some post-pandemic theater has taken on a new mission: to illuminate the African American experience in a way that’s relatable to audiences of all colors.

It’s an admittedly tricky tightrope to walk, so it’s quite impressive that Keenan Scott II’s first Broadway play, “Thoughts of a Colored Man,” now at the Golden Theater under Steve H. Broadnax III’s assured direction, keeps its balance with only a couple of minor missteps.

Although the play originally seems like it may involve multitudes of Brooklyn residents, a la Anna Deavere Smith’s “Fires in the Mirror,” we ultimately realize this alternating series of monologues and multi-character scenes feature only seven distinct characters (whose names are not revealed until the end of the show). Some are connected by family, others by friendship, and one or two only by geography, but together, they collectively create a vivid portrait of a community. Indeed, their individual stories provide plenty of food for thought, quite a few laughs, and a handful of tears.

Scott asks us to acknowledge all of these men and their experiences, whether it’s the bitter ex-athlete (the excellent Tristan Mack Wilds) struggling to be a worthy mentor to a younger generation; the highly successful gay businessman (the superb Bryan Terrell Clark) attempting to fit in to a mostly straight and less affluent neighborhood; a pair of childhood friends (the touching Da’Vinchi and Dyllon Burnside) with very different views of romance; an older Nigerian immigrant (the fine Esau Prichett) and his upstanding son-in-law (the golden-voiced Luke James, occasionally breaking into song); and, most heartbreakingly, a middle-aged man (the brilliant Forrest McLendon), who gave up his chance to attend M.I.T. to take care of his family, and now survives working a minimum-wage job at a recently-opened Whole Foods.

Occasionally, they attack or even taunt each other –in a momentarily tense scene in a local barbershop or an uncomfortable encounter at that While Foods – and sometimes, they find unexpected common ground (as when four of them end up on the same long line awaiting the newest pair of Air Jordan sneakers, albeit for different reasons).

In the final minutes of the play, Scott reveals the characters do not have “normal” names, but are actually called Love, Happiness, Wisdom, Lust, Passion, Depression and Anger, which may lead us to believe that they are collectively the “colored man” of the title. That is the playwright’s prerogative, but it’s my opinion that this choice feels unnecessarily reductive to the full-bodied men he’s created (each of whom contain a multitude of feelings). Indeed, these are the kind of flesh-and-blood men whom Broadway audiences of all races need to see more of as we try to gain understanding of each other – and, hopefully, begin to heal.
By Brian Scott Lipton

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Dyllón Burnside, Bryan Terrell Clark, Da’Vinchi, Luke James, Forrest McClendon, Esau Pritchett, Tristan “Mack” Wilds

Open/Close Dates
Opening 10/13/2021
Closing Open-ended

Theatre Info
John Golden Theatre
252 West 45th Street
New York, NY 10036