The Scottsboro Boys problem
June 28, 2012
American Conservatory Theater and The Old Globe, gets full marks for every detail from casting to music to lighting.
And yet something bothers me about the show, which I experienced yesterday on opening night.
I've been trying to pin down what it is that I found so irksome about it, and I can't quite put my finger on it. But I think it has something to do with the fact that The Scottsboro Boys feels very much in line the growing clatch of theatrical works about race relations in this country that hide formulaic political correctness behind a veneer of clever postmodern staging ideas and metaphors.
Suzan Lori-Parks pioneered the formula, with plays like Topdog/Underdog and The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World. When Topdog came out in 2001, its approach to deconstructing and politicizing historical minstrel shows seems very fresh. But a decade on, the idea feels stale.
Still, this feeling doesn't detract from the power of the storytelling in The Scottsboro Boys. It's just a nagging thing. But it won't go away....