Jordan Riefe Now
I don't particularly like one-man shows. It's generally best to have characters bouncing off each other if you want drama. But who knows--a one-man show about Frederick Douglass might illuminate this significant figure. So I thought I'd find out about it in this review in The Hollywood Reporter by Jordan Riefe. I was disappointed. Not by the show, but by Riefe.
Frederick Douglas Now (don't like that "Now"--the show should be relevant without grabbing you by the lapels and telling you) is written and directed by its star, Roger Guenveur Smith. He's a busy actor who may be best known as the mentally challenged Smiley in Do The Right Thing. Here's how Riefe describes that role in his first paragraph:
While Smiley isn’t the sharpest resident of Bed-Stuy, his canny solution to the systematic denial of rights to minorities is a combination of Malcolm’s militant call to arms when power concedes nothing and King’s efforts to expose the barbarism of bigotry via dignity, eloquence and courage
He had a canny solution? What I recall is everything gets destroyed and no one ends up with anything but a hollow victory at best. In any case, this is our first indication that Riefe isn't interested in reviewing the show so much as informing us of his political views.
Here are some selections from this "review":
Ostensibly the work is about race, but as the middle class diminishes and people of all colors find themselves further and further from the American dream, Smith and Douglass’ words take on meaning beyond the context of black and white...
...Douglass’ words ring true today when minorities are targeted under stop-and-frisk laws or a homeless grandmother is beaten by a cop on the 10 Freeway, or when peaceful protesters are pepper-sprayed at UC Davis and no one is made to answer for it...
...Douglass’ arguments, as irrefutable as they are, made him an outlier in his time. The fact that some of his ideas remain controversial even today is a sad reminder of how far we still are from a “post-racial” America.
I thought The Hollywood Reporter was a professional journal covering show business. So what is this empty editorial masquerading as a theatre review doing in it?
PS Here's a line from a review at the AV Club by Gwen Ihnat of this week's episode of Masters Of Sex, set in the late 50s:
I know it’s been a rough week for us all—especially as we witnessed that current-day Ferguson, Missouri does not appear to be so far removed from 1950s St. Louis.
Oh, it's pretty damn far removed. But that doesn't stop critics who don't know much about history, but know what people will pat them on the head for, from making this comparison.