Real black women come into light in ‘White’

Real black women come into light in ‘White’

At the outset of “White,” Philadelphia playwright James Ijames’ funny and relevant race-relations comedy onstage in a Shotgun Players production in Berkeley, a perky blond curator states that she’s going to shake things up at her contemporary art museum: Her upcoming show “New America” won’t include any works by white men.

It rankles her friend Gus, a white artist (making a white painting) she knows from graduate school. Desperate to be in the exhibit, he asks her, “Doesn’t being gay count for anything?” and remains dejected when Jane reiterates, “You’re the exactly the opposite of what I’m looking for. No white dudes.”

At home, Gus’ Asian boyfriend Tanner, an English teacher, isn’t overly sympathetic to his predicament.

But, after “Saint Diana” Ross (the perfect personification of a beautiful black woman) visits him in a dream, in a silver sequin gown to boot, Gus comes up with a scheme. He’ll hire Tanner’s black actress acquaintance Vanessa to portray an artist, who’ll present his paintings as her own, to get him into the show. He tells her, “We’ll revolutionize the way people think about diversity.” Together, they create the artist, called Balkonae, in a priceless scene.

It’s an enticing and amusing setup, opening up continued and necessary conversation about persistent racial inequity and injustice.

The smart production, directed with economy and insight by M. Graham Smith and Samira Mariama Hamid, looks fantastic, too. Set designer Nina Ball created walls representing a museum gallery, which cleverly slide across the stage to reveal Gus’ studio on one side and his home on the other.

All of the acting is top-notch: Jed Parsario as Tanner moves from vulnerable to angry (in a hilarious sex scene, and later, an intense lovers’ quarrel) and Luisa Frasconi gives Jane attractive authority, and the appropriate wit that gently skewers pretensions in the art world.

Adam Donovan nicely gives the less-than-sympathetic Gus humanity, though the opening night audience understandingly groaned when Gus asks why a white man demanding equal rights is always seen as crazy.

Yet the show belongs to Santoya Fields, who, in doing triple duty as Diana, Vanessa and Balkonae, reveals facets of character rarely afforded to black women in pop culture and art.

She strikes just the right note as the fantasy music star and a young actress who, not entirely confident in her ability, blossoms into a vibrant and bold person making a statement, when, at last, someone listens.

REVIEW
White
Presented by Shotgun Players
Where: Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave., Berkeley
When: 7 p.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 5 p.m. Sundays; closes Aug. 5
Tickets: $25 to $42
Contact: (510) 841-6500 ext. 303, shotgunplayers.org Adam DonovanJames IjamesJed ParsarioLuisa FrasconiM. Graham SmithSamira Mariama HamidSantoya FieldsTheaterWhite

Just Posted

Salesforce Tower and several other buildings in downtown San Francisco can be seen through the fog; climate scientists report that The City’s beloved mascot may be on the decline. (Courtesy Engel Ching)
Is San Francisco losing its fog? Scientists fear the worst

This isn’t just an identity crisis for San Franciscans. It’s an ecological problem

The Bay Area is vying to be one of 16 communities,<ins> spread across the U.S., Canada and Mexico,</ins> to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup soccer championships. Games would be played at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. (Courtesy Bay Area Host Committee, World Cup 2026)
Bay Area launches bid to host World Cup games in 2026

FIFA officials pay San Francisco a visit as they tour prospective venues

The sun sets over the Bay Area, as seen from the Berkeley Hills, Oct. 18, 2017. “The gauzy fantasy that we are so much better here in the Bay Area because of our diversity, because we are too focused on the future to get hung up on this region’s ugly past, because we’re so much cooler than everywhere else — lets white liberals pretend that the taint of racism can’t reach them here in this shining city on a bunch of hills.”(Andrew Burton/The New York Times)
The Bay Area is far from a haven for progressive diversity and harmony

‘I’ve experienced more day-to-day racism in the Bay Area than in the last Capitol of the Confederacy.’

San Francisco City Administrator Carmen Chu, who took office in February, is in the process of restructuring the sprawling department. (Sebastian Miño-Bucheli/Special to The Examiner)
Report knocks city administrator for inefficiency, lack of transparency

‘A culture that allows corruption to take place’

Most Read