Theater review: ‘White’.
The current show, ‘White’ at Berkeley’s ‘Shotgun Players’, is worth your time and money…
Based on a real-life event, this dramedy pits gay, Caucasian painter Gus (Adam Donovan) against his old college buddy Jane (Luisa Frasconi), who is now the curator of an important art institute but who won’t display his paintings in her upcoming show because he isn’t ethnically interesting enough.
In this play about self-reflection, writer James Ijames asks the audience to examine if and how misogyny, racism and patriarchy shape our perceptions, at a time when many art institutions in the U.S. are asking themselves the same…
Gus’s answer to his situation is to hire Vanessa (Santoya Fields), a black actress, to pretend that his work is actually hers (interestingly, Gus’s paintings are all monochrome white, though Jane suggests that they ‘need some blue’…) and between them they conjure-up her name, ‘Balkonae’ and her back-story, ‘Pygmalion-style’.
Complicating matters is Gus’s relationship with his Asian live-in lover, Tanner, (Jed Parsario). Can Gus be racist if he has an Asian boyfriend?
Clearly this situation is headed for a train-wreck when Gus is visited by an apparition in the form of Diana Ross, offering him advice on the way forward, or is it backward?
In any event, the performance(s) by Santoya Fields as the actress-for-hire Vanessa, as well as Ms. Ross and also the Eliza Doolittley, ‘Balkonae’, (with an accent on the ‘e’), must be seen to be believed… Diva-worthy!
I have already submitted her name as a nominee for the upcoming Bay Area Critics Awards for the performance.
Solid performances all around in this four-hander are well-directed by M. Graham Smith, with a spare, cleverly-designed, sliding set by the always-innovative Nina Ball, this play asks it’s audience to ‘listen to the real black woman, not the one prancing around in your head’, by asking challenging questions and it examines how we understand, and misunderstand each other…
It’s a ‘Go-See’…
Thru Aug 5 2018
1901 Ashby Ave, Berkeley, CA.