Central Works opening production of its 2018 season, Bamboozled by award-winning playwright Patricia Milton, has been extended through March 25th (originally scheduled to close March 18). Milton is a Resident Playwright for Central Works and a long-term member of the Central Works Writers Workshop. Bamboozled is Central Works 58th world premiere.
Bamboozled tells the story of Abby (Jeunée Simon), a black appraiser from Los Angeles who’s touring with the show “Antiques Roadtrip.” While traveling in the south – Shelby County, Tennessee, she becomes involved with a man who’s Aunt, Opal Anne (Susan Jackson), accuses her of defrauding the family by appraising her family heirlooms (Confederate artifacts) at 60,000 and then selling them for a million to a museum.
Opal Anne, manages Civil War reenactments and sees the Confederacy and her family’s involvement as a positive legacy. She justifies her family history of slave ownership by claiming they were treated nicely and were simply “field hands” who were provided with food and clothing. In her mind, they were the ones that suffered during the war and are being attacked in current times.
Abby is looking to trace her roots and ends up meeting Savannah (Chelsea Bearce) at an archive library. When Savannah is made aware of Abby’s lawsuit she refers her to her place of work where she ends up with Rochelle (Stacy Ross) as her lawyer. Savannah does minimal tasks for Rochelle due to her being barred after being a target of racism at a nightclub that Rochelle represented her and her partner in.
Rochelle is interested in gaining a public personae a la Gloria Allred and makes excuses for the negative results of her approach to Savannah’s case. Rochelle faces prejudices of her own as a lesbian but it was nice to see the fact pointed out that white gay women may face prejudice but it’s not the same prejudice that a person of color faces, even worse for gay women of color, you can’t take off or cover up your skin. For instance, there’s a protest outside by white supremacists and it would be a risk for Abby to get to her car however, Rochelle can get it for her without incident.
Another topic not often touched upon is how black women from different regions deal with racism. The two black characters in the play have different views of what is and isn’t important. Abby believes historical items should be preserved and Savannah thinks they should be taken to the trash and forgotten. Savannah has less expectations of white people than Abby seems to. There’s several microaggressions realistically infused into the show and Abby’s reaction is one of shock but Savannah’s reaction is one of no surprise at all.
There are many things touched upon on this show in addition to racial bigotry in the United States, the legacy of slavery, and prejudice against gay women. There’s a moral component that touches upon self-interest and how each person rights a wrong. “Most of my plays deal with what we value, and what it costs us,” says playwright Milton. “The premise of Bamboozled is simple: we live in a country haunted by slavery and the Civil War. The nation emerged from conflict burdened with trauma and resentments. We have, in the generations since, continued to sustain unjust systems directly traceable to the institution of slavery. I wanted to write a play that challenged stereotypes we hold of the South, North, and West. I wanted to write a play about Southern women that didn’t erase women of color. I wanted to write a play that might start a conversation about our nation’s systemic economic injustice, stemming from our cotton slavery past.”
The cast was great but Chelsea Bearce and Stacy Ross really made the show. Their characters were also fleshed out more than the others as we learned about their past, their struggles, their various viewpoints and their sense of humor. The play is a perfect conversation piece about where we are today. It’s funny without devaluing the countries current truth, racism is alive and kicking, not in the past. Don’t miss it!
A new comedy about family valuables
written by Patricia Milton and directed by Gary Graves
Feb 17 – Mar 25 EXTENDED Central Works opening production of its 2018 season
(originally scheduled to close March 18).
At: The Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Avenue, Berkeley.
Performances: Thurs, Fri & Sat at 8 pm, Sun at 5 pm
Ticket prices: $30-$35 online at centralworks.org, $35–$15 sliding scale at the door.
Previews and Thursdays: available seats are pay-what-you-can at the door.
Tickets & info: 510.558.1381 or centralworks.org
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