WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Artistic Director, Robert Hupp has made a point to produce new plays at Syracuse Stage and their latest production is another good choice. Thoughts of a Colored Man, is a series of vignettes between black men in an urban, concrete landscape beautifully realized by scenic designer Sven Ortel. Playwright Keenan Scott II has tremendous skill with language and characterization, his world feels authentic, without sacrificing theatricality. As the scenes play out with the nameless characters, the black man’s life in 21st Century America is illuminated. Topics range from neighborhood gentrification, loss of culture, self-defeatist materialism to the constant fear of dying by gun violence. The dialogue is never preachy and despite the important thoughts, the play always feels conversational and natural. It never feels like a scene is about an important “issue.” Of course there are conversations that have nothing to do with serious issues at all, as well.
When the character names of Wisdom, Passion Depression, Lust , Happiness, Love and Anger are revealed, it’s a bit on the nose, just like the title. A little nuance, subtext and irony might have added depth. These choices feel like they were made by a young playwright, but a hopeful, honest and unpretentious playwright. The subject matter and the characters are so interesting that a direct presentation works best. Perhaps that is the point, though that subtext isn’t necessary
Despite its episodic nature and aversion to plot, the play is brisk and both moving and entertaining. The entire cast is sensational and vivid and it is expertly directed by Steve H. Broadnax III. As always production values and presentation is top notch at Syracuse Stage.
I highly recommend Thoughts of a Colored Man. It’s a unique theatrical experience that puts you directly in the life of the black man in America today.