The Colored Museum captures the African American experience with on-stage vignettes

This week, the Sam Houston State University Department of Theatre and Dance will present George Wolfe’s The Colored Museum, directed by Kandice Harris and Bill Thomas in the showcase theatre.

The show was the antithesis of my expectations and is presented by the cast as 11 vignettes that are to be exhibits in the museum. In each scene, the actors both embraced and ignored the black stereotypes often seen in American theatre, presenting a well-rounded satirical look at the historical struggles of the African Americans.

In a role that could have easily been misconstrued, both in its portrayal and its reception, Allegra Fox was perfect as Miss Pat, letting the audience know that it was permissable to laugh. Her sunny demeanor as the flight attendant through time did not seem at all affected, and helped set the mood for the rest of the show.

Victoria White won the audience over in all three roles that she played, but her infectious laughter was particularly helpful in her role as Aunt Ethel. In the scene ‘Cookin’ with Aunt Ethel,’ White lets the audience know that they are not seeing a normal show; there is no fourth wall, and they will most likely be participants.

Once that fourth wall was fully broken, Marcus Cumby came on stage to play Junie Robinson in ‘Soldier with a Secret.’ If there was any question of whether or not this show should have been in a black box theatre, Cumby proved it necessary after delivering a monologue that would impress greatly at an audition. I am interested to know if there was a single person in the audience with whom he did not make eye contact.

In ‘The Gospel According to Miss Roj,’ Reggie Talley took a few moments to gain sympathy from the audience, continuing this sentiment with his deeply layered performance. In addition, Brandon Thomas delivered a few extra laughs to those fortunate enough to be within hearing range of his disgruntled, ad-libbed mumblings in the scene.

Talley returned several vignettes later to appear as the childhood version of the man portrayed by Kendrick Mitchell. Mitchell gave a subtly awe-inspiring performance, rather than overacting. His depiction of inner turmoil was one that did not truly hit home until leaving the theatre, and after having mulled over the effects of the show as a whole.

In both the opening and closing scenes, Miss Pat tells the audience/travelers to gather their belongings, as any baggage not claimed will be trashed. Through their performances, the cast members illustrated that, although it is very possible to not necessarily claim one’s baggage, because of history, that baggage will never be lost.

The show runs from March 25 – 28, at 8 p.m. each night and with a 2 p.m. matinee on March 28. Tickets are $8 with a student I.D. The show is only an hour and 45 minutes, and many English classes are offering extra credit for attendance.

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