‘I Ain’t Yo Uncle’ entertains, enlightens

    The credit for the foundation of any play must go to the playwright. In the case of “I Ain’t Yo’ Uncle,” Robert Alexander, who put a deliciously new spin on Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” deserves the honor. Indeed, the characters in this dramatic work, the most well-known of Alexander’s 23 plays, take Stowe to trial for perpetrating stereotypes and “failing to get their story right” in her novel. What follows is a poignant yet humorous production that reminds the nation how far it has to go in order to achieve racial equality.

    Even the most exquisite of scripts, however, requires a strong director in order to come alive. Bill Fennelly does not disappoint in his casting and direction of “I Ain’t Yo Uncle.” Quonta Beasley’s delightfully independent Topsy, Bradley Fleischer’s disgustingly sleazy Legree, Teri Kretz’s refreshingly dramatic Eliza, Abdul-Khaliq Murtadha’s complicated George and Owiso Odera’s complex Tom are just a few of the notable characters who truly pull the production together.

    The choreography efforts of Jean Isaacs, Grace Shinhae Jun and Lesa Green-Williams do not go unnoticed. It is the dance scenes that help to contrast the state of race relations both prior to the Civil War and today. In all their hip-hop rhythm and tap dance razzmatazz, these numbers comment that race relations, unfortunately, have not changed so drastically at all.

    Unlike the acting, dancing and choreography, the comparatively sparse scenic designs and subtle costumes created by Kevin Judge and Raquel Barreto, respectively, are kept very minimal. Though Barreto’s choice to use masks when representing specific characters does wonders to emphasize both the stereotypes of blacks prevalent throughout our nation’s history, it also accentuates the secondary white characters within the show itself.

    “I Ain’t Yo’ Uncle” provides a truly fascinating evening. The only minor drawbacks of the show stem from those lackluster costumes and scenery and the necessary evil of the ensemble cast. All in all, however, this is a powerful production of a powerful play.

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