“Native Son” at Stray Cat Theatre Review – Guest Author Momaconda

Top Ten Reasons to See Native Son at Stray Cat Theatre THIS WEEKEND. NOW. Click this link and buy tickets and reschedule other things to go see this show.

  1. So much talent in one room, you will think you are in New York. See these actors now while you can afford tickets.
  1. Debutantes hold the Money of America. The wealthy argue politics while poor families are kicked out onto the street. Families struggle to fit religion into their hard scrabble lives. Sound familiar? Richard Wright’s Native Son novel was written in 1940, Nambi E. Kelley’s play published in 2016. Close to 80 years later, and this story still has legs. You will be thinking about this tale for a long time after close.
  1. (White Privilege Alert) I’m a white female viewer—never, I hope, as ‘I-don’t-see-race’ as the literally blind Mrs. Dalton (who’s got a white cat named “Whitey”—how would she even know??), but not always one to dive into race issues, because maybe it’s not my business. But the audience was mixed race, mixed age range and if you want to spend a night with an intelligent room of people, see this show. And as of the election, it is everyone’s business.
  1. (Sexism Alert) Were the female characters completely objectified by the main, male character? Pretty much yes. One woman is killed (partially) because she represented all women of her type (white female, which, as you can see from #3, hits home). But does this make the play sexist? Nope. This play is about the inner workings of Bigger’s mind (made outer in the character of Black Rat). We are seeing what his life, his world—which (see #2 above) is an awful lot like our world—is turning him into. This is how he is being molded. He can’t see himself, either, so how could he possibly see the rest of us? It’s making all of us look at how our categories are defining those around us and ourselves.
  1. A modern day Othello. Or it begins where Othello leaves off, distraught Black male snuffing out the life of a White female. But instead of Iago getting inside his head, it’s the RFW (racist f*cking world). But not all Whites (or Reds) are evil in Native Son. People do try . . .

Although to me, Bigger’s treatment of Bessie is much more disturbing. I will say, if this show had been written by a man, I would probably have more issue with Bessie’s treatment. But as a woman of color character written by a woman of color, Bessie haunts me and seems especially relevant in this time of heated discussions of White and Intersectional Feminism. The different responses to the deaths of these women are, again, perhaps not limited to a 1930s setting, and that is breathtaking in its implications (imho).

  1. This show almost literally takes you to Hell and back.
  1.  (Disrupted Chronology Alert) The opening scenes take a bit to find your footing, as it were. You may not quite know what you’re seeing, but the frame holds and it all comes together at the end. And the shared-line transitions from one scene to the next really worked for me, how words are picked up and echo through time or people.
  1. Reason not to see this show? It did take me three times around the block to get into the parking lot (don’t judge). But as you approach from the East on Washington, get into the FAR LEFT lane (other side of the train tracks, it will seem like the wrong way but, since it’s a one-way-street, it’s fine). They serve beer and wine once you get in, so give yourself time for a parking reward.
  1. Phoenix needs to be the type of town that supports challenging theater. DVR whatever you might be missing and grab some friends and bring them along, be those cool people who know what’s going on in the city.
  1. Did I mention the overload of talent?  If you don’t laugh & gasp (I can admit, I had tears running down my face at the end, but maybe you’re not all criers), email me and I will buy you a beer or wine at your next show. Doesn’t drama exist to make us think, feel, see the world a little differently? This show does all of that. If you’re not feeling it, we gotta talk.
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