Review: "Thoughts of a colored man" preaches to the choir

Seven black men take the stage at the opening of “Thoughts of a Colored Man” by Keenan Scott II. Over the course of the play, each will ...


Seven black men take the stage at the opening of “Thoughts of a Colored Man” by Keenan Scott II. Over the course of the play, each will reveal a personality and a story, but not a name, although later they will introduce themselves as Love, Happiness, Wisdom, Lust, Passion, Depression, and Anger. Dressed in different combinations of black, gray and red, they gaze at a huge billboard that reads “COLORED” in declarative black capitals.

One of them then asks the question that opens the room: “Who is the Colored Man?”

That’s a question Scott’s Broadway debut, which kicked off Wednesday night at the John Golden Theater, is unsure how to answer. Incorporating slam poetry, prose, and songs performed by its cast of seven, “Thoughts of a Colored Man,” which premiered in 2019 at Syracuse Stage in a co-production with Baltimore Center Stage, aspires to being a lyrical account with black life in America, but only delivers a series of Strawman lessons.

Set in today’s Brooklyn, amidst the many symbols of gentrification (Citi Bike stations, Whole Foods, and a Paris Baguette), “Thoughts” uses thumbnails to register with different characters, which are often grouped together. Although the show, directed by Steve H. Broadnax III, is only about 100 minutes long, it takes us to a bus stop, basketball court, barber shop, hospital and other places, in a series of 18 eye-catching scenes.

The characters, ranging in age from late adolescence to the mid-1960s, have specific themes to illustrate: Elder Wisdom (Esau Pritchett) speaks of respect, history and ancestry; Anger (Tristan Mack Wilds) talks about the pitfalls of consumerism and the objectification of black athletes; and Happiness (Bryan Terrell Clark) challenges black notions of struggle and class.

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