It’s not often you hear about a hilarious black identity-politics play. So when we heard that Crowded Fire Theater was doing the Bay Area premiere of Korean-American playwright Young Jean Lee’s play, The Shipment, we knew it was time for a night of Drama Talks & Drinks.
Brittany: I thought it was good. The opening was so energetic. From a theater-history standpoint the script was fun too. All the different vignettes were nods to different types of performance, from minstrel shows, to stand-up comedy, to Brecht, to a modern tv show. When viewed together they critiqued the way African Americans have been and are portrayed, but it did so without forcing the audience to sit through a history lesson.
Katie: I liked the different pieces individually, but despite some strong performances, I don’t think it flowed very well between them.
B: You’re right. It took me a minute to get into each piece. Once I got into it, it was great, but those transitions felt abrupt.
K: I constantly felt like I was playing catch-up when a new section began, because you had to get used to a totally different style of theater and different characters. An impressive feat for the actors. There were a lot of layers in there, which made it interesting, but I felt like I was missing a lot. I wish I had read the script first.
B: I do too, it was definitely a smart play. It left me more contemplative than emotionally impacted though. I appreciate that the final piece made the audience confront implicit biases, but I wish there had been a call to action. Laughter is a place to start, but I don’t think it pushed the audience far enough given our current news cycle.
K: Crowded Fire is doing cool new works though, and I appreciate that. It’s important that they’re supporting writers of color, actors of color, directors of color, and bringing in more diverse audiences. This play hit all those marks, and I enjoyed it.
The Verdict: Go see it! It’s an interesting play, with strong performances, and an important message.
The Drama Talk: While some of the messages in this 2009 play may not feel as revolutionary as they did when it originally premiered, it’s still a smart play which reminds us of the long history of racial bias in the media and thereby in our culture. It was an interesting and thought provoking night at the theater.
The Drinks: Crowded Fire’s theater tends to get pretty warm. Warm enough that the night we went they had fans on everyone’s seats. After the show we needed a refreshing drink to cool us down so we headed up the hill to Bloom’s Saloon for great views and cheap gin and tonics.
The Shipment runs through October 15th at The Thick House theater. Tickets range from $15-30 and can be purchased on the Crowded Fire website.