GASP! A review of theatre, arts and culture

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The Shipment at Crowded Fire


OMG! The Shipment is such a provocative play that I still don’t know how to describe it without getting into a discourse on race in America, which would provoke a whitesplaining response from a lot of people I know. So stop. See it for yourself.

I think it helps to have a little background about what you are about to see. In a completely subjective observation of the movies I have watched recently, I have hardly seen any black actors in them. The usual excuse (a.k.a. “whitesplaining”) is that there were no black people at the time and place depicted in the movie. You know whitesplaining, right? I didn’t know “mansplaining” until recently, so I won’t blame you for not following language trends. But it gets worse, because when you think about it, a lot of stories with heroes and pioneers and discoverers are written for white actors, and of course it becomes a matter of Marketing a product to a white audience who will pay to see people “like them” perform great deeds.

Should you for a moment be inclined to adopt a different point of view, go see The Shipment. I promise, it will be a lot more interesting than a lecture about racism in America.

The Shipment

Howard Johnson Jr. portrays a comedian who “gets real” about race in one segment of Crowded Fire’s THE SHIPMENT by Young Jean Lee.  Photo by Pak Han

It usually takes me a long time to think about a play or a movie after I’ve seen it, unless of course it was filled with dance and song and great fun. But wait, all the acts in The Shipment have dance, comedy, and song in them. Everything you would expect in a good show, right? In fact it is a very good show. Because they play different situations in each act, the actors have to be very flexible, and just for that they should be commended. They even sing a capella! And the final act has them play as they wouldn’t be cast in an ordinary show, but you just wait to see how it contrasts with the third act, both in contents and character. There is a lot of reality in that contrast.

Often after seeing a show, you would reassure yourself that the issues have been resolved or are way out and away from your daily life. Maybe you’d reassure yourself that slavery has been abolished, or that the Nuremberg trial punished all the nazis, or that it happened in another country, another state, or that much water has flowed under the bridges since whatever event happened. Hopefully something will change in you that will move us closer to a fair and equal society.

Something that did not escape me was that such a small company as Crowded Fire could put together such a perfect show. The acting, the set design, the costumes, the lighting, the sound, and the signing were all wonderfully put together to produce a delectable show that gave me a lot of food for thought.

The Shipment, by Young Jean Lee, directed by Mina Morita and Lisa Marie Rollins, with Nkechi Emeruwa, William Hartfield, Howard Johnson Jr., Nican Robinson, and Michael Wayne Turner III. Through October 15. Crowded Fire Theater ( at the Thick House, 1695 18th St., San Francisco





This entry was posted on September 27, 2016 by in Play and tagged , , , , , .


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