- OTHER MEDIA
- Who Died?
Play looks at the invisible man
By Nirmala Nataraj
- article in the San Francisco Bay Guardian
- Pulitzer Prizewinning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks has a distinctive
patois, flavored with soul food and libations from a stream of consciousness.
Parks' play, The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World,
is a dreamy but schizophrenic piece that mashes African-American storytelling
traditions into a disconnected fable about stereotypes. The playwright's
premise is that if the last black man in the world were to die tomorrow,
nothing would be left to remind us that he existed. Parks' troupe of representational
characters who have names like Black Woman With Fried Drumstick
tell stories about the archetypal black man, whose life is pieced
together from a ragbag of history and stereotypes. (He was born into slavery,
participated in the civil rights movement, is nourished with collard greens
and fried chicken by his Earth mama wife, and dies repeatedly sometimes
by lynching.) Parks deftly explores racial clichés through a dizzying
procession of biblical characters, pharaohs, and symbols rooted in African-American
culture. Amid the farce, however, is a radical act of preservation that
emphasizes the clout of the written word: A character known as Yes And
Greens Black-Eyed Peas Cornbread exhorts the others: "You should write
that down and you should hide it under a rock.