Monday, May 8, 2023

" The Ni¿¿er Lovers" ★ ?

 Here are two nice things to love about Marc Anthony Thompson's "The Ni¿¿er Lovers." Number one, the wacky and intriguing opening scene, and two, the excellent performances throughout from Rotimi Agbabiaka and Aejay Marquis Mitchell. The Opening Night audience at the Magic Theatre laughed at every gag and howled for the actors when they came out for a bow. 

Everyone knows the theater is in trouble in America. Younger, more diverse blood is desperately needed, on stage and in the audience. It is always an admirable achievement to bring in a younger, hipper crowd, in this case one that finds the word "ni¿¿er" to be entertaining. For those of us who are not the target audience, yes we understand the cultural nuances surrounding this word in different situations, but if the N Word were not hateful, you wouldn't need the upside-down question marks. 

Of course, it's all supposed to be slapstick. But the greatest joke in the world is only funny until it truly is not.

This is author Thompson's first show and he also directs. After the enticing first scene, in which Agbabiaka and Mitchell play two unsuspecting Africans who are heading onto a slave boat thinking they have signed up for a cruise -- "Did you apply for House or Field?" --  the action pivots into a variety show, where M.C. Tanika Baptiste tries to make the audience laugh every time she screams "Ni¿¿er" or "My Ni¿¿er!" or "Ni¿¿er Lover!" 

After the final curtain, the author came to the stage to deliver a long thank you. He apologized to "those who might be uncomfortable with the word 'ni¿¿er.'" What would have comforted us more might have been a real ending. 

This show is also a musical, with songs written by the playwright, about whom the Playbill notes "Marc Anthony Thompson is a reluctant singer and indolent songwriter."  

Sure, the whole thing is a joke. Sure, it's also a joke that killing white people gives the characters super powers. Yes, they also get to include gender and the Jews ("Mazel Fucking Tov!") for no discernible reason. Perhaps the bigger joke is on us.

There is also no way to write this review without sounding old and white and in the way so we stop here.


The San Francisco Theater Blog awards "The Ni¿¿er Lovers" One Star with a Question Mark. The Star is for Agbabiaka and Mitchell, with gratitude. The question mark is a thank you for whomever reached through the curtain to remove the dildo. 

This production needs a lot of editing, but it has promise. If it really is to be a musical, some of the actors need to be given something more tuneful to sing so they can be a little surer of their notes. 

"The Ni¿¿er Lovers"

The Magic Theatre

Fort Mason, Building D, San Francisco

Through May 21


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