Review: "Black" at the Zephyr Theatre

Jill Weinlein

  • Chief Los Angeles Theatre Critic

Sitting in the Zephyr Theatre to watch a touching one-man show by British playwright, actor and storyteller Michael Washington Brown, I felt as if I was attending a Black Studies class at a local college.

With a simple set, this multimedia experience is enhanced with images and music as Brown examines race from a global perspective. The curriculum includes a study of black history, music, sociology, and psychology.

Brown opens with the power of words, and how sticks and stones may break your bones but words can hurt even more. This immensely likable actor becomes four distinctive characters, starting with a black man living in the United States discussing dating and how powerful words in music can enlighten our mood depending on the different genre one listens too.

Brown also discusses relationships with other blacks in the community and the confusion of now having to call a black man, an African American.

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The second character residing in London examines slavery and how successful blacks walk away, ignore and don’t help their brothers that aren’t as fortunate. With a British accent, he recites words that begin or ends with black, and it’s association with good and evil, struggle and success. Blackjack is useful when you win, while Blackmail is terrible.

With a thick Jamaican accent Brown’s third character focuses on the power of family, and the community. He explores stricter parenting, school uniforms, and avoidance of social media until adulthood, while explaining to his child why white represents excellent and black signifies terrible, such as the white dove is a sign of peace and the black raven as evil, yet ravens are powerful and intelligent birds.

The last character focuses on black Africans living in poverty and how charity to help these people is big business. He questions where does all the money raised go?

At the end of the show BLACK, Michael Washington Brown reflects on the importance of brotherhood and how we are all people, regardless of the shade of color on our skin. If we could unite together peacefully without envy or judgment, the world would be a much better place.

This ninety-minute show will inspire all who see it. Performances are on Sundays at 7 p.m. through Oct. 14. Tickets are $25. The Zephyr Theatre 7456 Melrose Ave. Los Angeles (800)838-3006.