“Ain‘t No Mo’” riotous satire of black stereotypes makes serious point

By Lucy Komisar

This very funny, clever, often campy satire of black life and stereotypes by Jordan Cooper hits every button, starting with a noisy evangelical church service for Brother Righttocomplain who is being interred because he was murdered by the election of First Negro President of these United States. Director Stevie Walker-Webb expertly plays the camp to its heights, until you are surprised by reality peeking through.

March¡nt Davis as the preacher, photo Joan Marcus.

The preacher (March¡nt Davis) raps that “With his funeral, we marked the death of our suffering in this wretched land. Brother Righttocomplain will be last to march in the back door!”

Meanwhile, one of the overdressed church ladies (Crystal Lucas-Perry) pounds an organ keyboard and sings in a very black accent, “Because the President is a nigga, there ain‘t no mo‘ discrimination.” The pastor ignores a gunshot. “Ain‘t no mo‘ blueish red light in your rear-view mirror when you taking the family to the church picnic … Ain‘t no mo‘ Rodney King.” But then we hear news reports about the Flint water crisis, the deaths of Trayvon Martin and others.

March¡nt Davis and Fedna Jacquet as his pregnant wife, photo Joan Marcus.

Cooper‘s takedown of the Obama myth is piercing as it shows his election had no effect on American racism. But there is a salvation for black people: the government is sending them “back to Africa!

We see the reasons why they would go: A woman (Fedna Jacquet) at an abortion clinic doesn‘t want to have son who is going to die. We see a man with a bloodstained shirt. A husband is dead, kids locked up or dead. A reporter (Lucas-Perry) who talks about them being “free” is asked, “Did you report on the Trayvon Martin shooting?”

Fedna Jacquet and Ebony Marshall-Oliver as TV show ladies, photo Joan Marcus.

But then, another surreal scene, black women in theatrical outfits (costumes by Montana Levi Blanco) on a TV show that is supposed to mirror a whatever “housewives” show – sorry, I don‘t watch TV, so never saw it. They shout and scream at each other, especially at a transracial cast member Rachel/ Rachonda (Simone Recasner) who is taking “color purple” to become black. It‘s a wild scene!

Ebony Marshall-Oliver as jail guard and Crystal Lucas-Perry as inmate, photo Joan Marcus.

I loved the bit about the upper middle-class family complaining about the maid not being around to cook. Suddenly a very downtrodden, very dark servant crashes up through the dining table. “I am black,” she declares, “as in you,” and continues in their face. They don‘t like that and want to get rid of her. “Should we just put it back in the basement?” But she says “I‘m loose now. You can chain me down once, but once I‘m loose, chains can‘t hold me no more.”

Back to real life, two women in prison, who in the grand departure will be getting out. The way is through Gate 1619. That was the year when the first Africans were kidnapped from their homes and transported to Virginia in the beginning of the slave trade.

Jordan E. Cooper as airline agent about to leave through Gate 1619, photo Joan Marcus.

Peaches, the airline check-in agent, is playwright Cooper, dressed in a tight pink outfit and heels. Took me a while figure out that “she” was a “he.” She‘s about to get on the plane with a carpet bag with all their stuff, their American history and connections. Do African-Americans belong in the US or Africa? There‘s a very surprise ending. A fine rich complex play.

Ain‘t No Mo’.” Written by  Jordan E. Cooper; directed by  Stevie Walker-Webb. The Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street, New York City. 212-967-7555. Opened March 27, 2019, closes May 5, 2019. Runtime 2 hours. 4/16/19.

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