Sunday, July 23, 2023

Fred Pitts: "Aren't You...?" ★★★★

How does a black man feel while visiting California Missions? "Like a fly in a bowl of milk," says Fred Pitts. He's got reason to feel this way - he is always the only black visitor at each Mission and at each one, fellow tourists, all white, confuse him with any number of famous black people. "Aren't you...Will Smith? Rafer Johnson? Sidney Poitier? Barry Bonds? 
Richard Roundtree (Shaft)? 

Unfortunately, says Pitts, nobody confuses him with LeBron James.

This self-proclaimed history geek takes it all in stride for the first half of the twenty-one missions he is determined to visit, but it does start to get at him. Still, he is learning all the time, as are we, the grateful audience, who get a history lesson while laughing at Pitts's terrific imitations of these tourists, and the docents, his grandmother and his childhood pastor, Reverend Davis.

Do you know about the Chumash revolt of 1824 at Mission Santa Inés or the Gold Rebellion of 1811 in New Orleans, which is the largest slave insurrection in American History? Of course you don't, neither did we and neither did Fred Pitts until he dug a little deeper into the history of the California missions. History class teaches only the history it wants us to know.
"Aren't You..." is a fabulous show. We have one small nitpick, which is that Mr. Pitts could probably learn a bit of Spanish pronunciation, since each mission he visits has a Spanish name. But he's got time. There are a bunch of Baja California missions too and we hope he travels there someday as well. We'll always be happy to laugh and learn from this excellent performer who also seems like a really nice guy.


The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division grants Cuatro Estrellas (Four Stars) to Fred Pitts for this superb night of theater. I never listened to my High School History teacher but I will listen to Fred Pitts. There are some difficult squirm-in-our-seats issues we need to think about. Perhaps laughter is the aspirin that allows our historical headaches to heal.

Fred Pitts: "Aren't You...?"
The Marsh
1062 Valencia St., San Francisco
Fridays through Aug. 18

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