August 22, 2016
“Black Magic” is a powerful image of what it’s like to be black – the history, the struggles, the pride, and resilience. It’s timely, and at times so profoundly relevant that we, the audience, can’t help but be palpably moved.
The play is a compilation of spoken word poetry, movement, song, and a touch of red-nose clowning, written by Tony Jenkins and co-directed by Jenkins and Chessa Metz. In a mere forty minutes, seven men confront their families, lovers, friends, and themselves; they directly address the society that failed them, the black boy, the gun, and the man behind the gun.
To move and make the trajectory as “Black Magic” does in such a short amount of time, is a testament to the words. Jenkins’ work is richly written, and his background as a spoken word poet rings clear. Each line holds meaning.
A young man shares his ideal movie: “It wouldn’t be a black story, but boy-meets-girl…No guns. No one dies…and when the credits roll, everyone has a name.”
Another address his Mom in a letter from beyond the grave, “I’m sorry I got hit with more bullets than birthdays.”
Later, one challenges the press, “Fill in the blank; fill in the black thing.”
And, “To the gun: I know you don’t hate us.”
We continue to travel with these men from one audience to the next. The transitions are largely stark, but there’s an emotional momentum that carries. Intermittently, movement by Metz is woven into the action on stage. At times it successfully punctuates the sentiment brought to life through the script and acting, though other times it feels less organic.
Following a blackout, the men re-emerge as red-nosed clowns, giggling and playful. One discovers a black glove, and puts it on only to realize it has a mind of its own. There’s confusion and laughter still. And then, the gloved hand forms a gun, pointing at each one of them, at us, at himself. He remains disconnected, fearful, and in disbelief of his own hand’s nonsensical actions. The men band together to remove it. This comedic-turned-intense route proves and effective conclusion for the work.
“Black Magic” was presented as part of the 20th anniversary of The New York International Fringe Festival.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Jenny Thompson