Saturday, July 19, 2008

"Not a Genuine Black Man": ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG

It's still great. Even though Brian Copeland had serious spinal surgery in the Spring of 2008, and his week-long benefit for the Marsh Theater is his first spin back on stage in all that time, and even though up until his hospital stay he had been performing 'Not a Genuine Black Man' almost constantly, across the country and Off-Broadway, since its debut at the Marsh in 2004 (where it became the longest running solo show in San Francisco theater history), the material is still fresh. Its revelations continue to tear at our inner core.

Yes, Copeland is a little stiffer and maybe the tears and screams are a little more forced than when the show was new. But his story resonates, not because of his emotion in telling it, but because of the obvious truths he makes us face. Racism was real for him as a child in San Leandro in the late '60s and '70s, and though that monster has perhaps lessened its grip, it has not in any way disappeared from our lives.

It helps that Copeland is such an excellent performer. WARNING: his descriptions of everyone, be it his mother, father and grandmother or the landlords who are trying to evict them, are so spot-on that it may feel awkward at first to let that belly laugh escape. But you can't hold it back. The show is too funny.

Neither blacks nor whites are being held for ransom here, and Copeland is not trying to be Dave Chappelle. This is a theater piece, not a comedy review, and though his story may make you uneasy, it insists on making us all consider his central question: "What is it that makes the racial identity of successful black men suspect?"

There's only one week to see Brian Copeland at the Marsh, where his journey began. All proceeds are being donated to the theater to purchase new seats. We'll miss those old red spine squashers, but not too much.


The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "Not a Genuine Black Man" Three Stars with a BANGLE of Praise. The BANGLE is for Copeland himself having enough heart to honor his commitment to the Marsh. It's nice to hear that Ed Asner is considering making a TV series out of the piece, though God help us if Asner wants to play Brian Copeland. They'll have to change the chitlins/chitterlings gag.

"Not a Genuine Black Man"
Benefit for Marsh Theater
1062 Valencia Street, San Francisco
Thu-Sat. July 24-26
$25-$50, sliding scale


copie said...

Glad you think that what /i have to say is still worthwhile.

I'm truly honored.


(brian copeland)

DAK said...

You're wonderful, Copie. Hope you are feeling 100% very soon, and in the meantime you made me laugh and feel uneasy at the same time, which I'm sure is the whole point. -dak