“Say yes, bitch!” Exactly. Especially once the sound ministry gets it together and wakes up the mournful spectacularly in white. You see, the Right to Complain died back on that historic day in 2008, when that black man, Barack Hussein Obama became the 44th President of these United States. And the roof is raised high by that ministry, with all of that wailing and carrying on by a gaggle of mourners flinging forth with such enthusiasm in the first and foremost vignette from the satirical and devilishly funny Ain’t No Mo’ now playing on Broadway at the magnificent Belasco Theatre. This piece of surprising power that debuted back in 2019 at The Public Theater is stuffed solidly inside a laugh-out-loud flight of fancy written by an impressive Jordan E. Cooper (“The Ms. Pat Show“) that consistently shows its smart deep roots with every unveiling. As directed with a ferocious flash and a smart smile by Stevie Walker-Webb, a 2050 Fellow at NYTW and the founding artistic director of Waco, Texas’ Jubilee Theatre, the cast of 6, five passengers and the wildly inappropriate and utterly fantastic Peaches, played to the skies by playwright Cooper, feasts its eyes on the prize and delivers the goods with style and hilarity.
At first, it flails around in deliciously over-the-top camp within a sketch comedy television show structure that is as silly and fun as it is meaningful and deep. It quickly reveals its wickedly smart stance underneath the wild symbolic gesturing and jabs at all things, including transracial prejudice, abortion, police shootings of black men, and freedom. “Smell that“, is all she can ask, and we join in with that inhalation taking in all the various ideas put forward. The writing and the frameworks within are stitched on perfectly, detailing troubling times for race relations in America, especially when looking back at the previous occupation of the White House by that Orange Monster and his gang of KKK cronies. The fantastically talented cast, made up of: Fedna Jacquet (Daryl Roth’s Gloria); Marchánt David (Broadway’s The Great Society); Shannon Matesky (Steppenwolf’s The March); Ebony Marshall-Oliver (Broadway’s Chicken & Biscuits); and Crystal Lucas-Perry (Broadway’s 1776); find the exacting flavor to get in the last word. Each and everyone finding their moment to shine and unpack an ideal that will hang in our communal air waiting for us all to breath it in.
On a television variety show-like set, elevated by designer Scott Pask (Broadway’s The Prom), with outrageously detailed costuming by Emilio Sosa (Broadway’s Trouble in Mind), complex yet detailed lighting by Adam Honoré (CSC’s Carmen Jones), a solid sound design by Jonathan Deans (Broadway’s Jagged Little Pill) and Taylor Williams (Broadway’s Moulin Rouge!), and some stupendous wig designs by Mia M. Neal (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom“), Ain’t No Mo’ rarely mist-fires, nor does it stumble over its self to make a point, especially now that the whole has been given a much deserved upgrade from coach to first class. Bravo.
The satire consistently stands upright and delivers the goods on those high heels. Cooper’s Peaches doesn’t “know easy“, but what the whole show seems to know is the truth. The scanner line of passengers waiting to board is a delicious minefield of astonishing detail, and alongside convict Blue, they push and pull forth idea after compelling idea with wise power, finding the funny in the pain and the disappointment in our current troubling situation. Happily, this flight was fully booked, and the crowd, enthusiastic. I’m forever thankful to have been given a ticket to fly once again. And don’t worry Peaches, I ain’t looking back.