Theater: “White Girl in Danger” at Second Stage
Just when you think you’ve gone out of your mind watching “White Girl in Danger,” a new play previewing at Second Stage, Clarence (James Jackson), one of the minor characters, appears on stage to explain the chaos you’ve been watching for the last three hours.
Seems Clarence is a stand-in for playwright Michael R. Jackson, whose “Strange Loop” won every award in the book last year. Clarence explains the playwright’s obsession with daytime and nighttime soap operas (e. g., “Dynasty”) which he watched as a child with his great-aunt. He reveals his frustration with the fact that the Black actors were confined to minor roles—hence the term “Blackgrounds” which is bandied about in this play.
This is the root of WGID, which is a little bit comedy, a little bit musical, and entirely mind-boggling (and not always in a good way).
In this soap opera-within-a-soap-opera (it’s very meta, you see), Keesha (Latoya Edwards) is a Black teen who desperately wants to fit with her white classmates in AllWhite, a small town whose population is 99.99 % white. The white teens—Megan (Molly Hager), Maegan (Alyse Alan Louis) and Meagan (Lauren Marcus)—are no great shakes; they’re drug-addicted, bulimic and promiscuous. The young ladies crave the attention of three humpy dudes (all played by Eric William Morris). Complicating matters is the fact there’s a killer on the loose who’s murdering white girls.
Keisha wants the play’s author to rewrite the soap so that she and her Black GFs are featured players, instead of the white teens. Be careful what you wish for, as Act II shows us.
There’s a kind of wacky “Little Shop of Horrors”- cum- “Hairspray” vibe to WGID and the cast is uniformly good. The standout is Tara Conner Jones, a Black woman who plays Keisha’s mother. She has a voice like a trumpet and a delivery like Louise Beavers. This lady, hailing from Jacksonville, Florida, will be a yuuuuge star someday. You read it here first.
In its current state, WGID is too long, too sloppy, and too nonsensical (until the very end), and IMHO needs to be pruned significantly before its premiere next month. What they say in Soap Opera World also applies to the theater: you only have one life to live.
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