By Patrick Christiano
January 8, 2012: Celebrated comedian Desiree Burch opened her most recent solo work TAR BABY, a insightfully funny interactive show that takes a witty look at racism in America. Witten by Desiree with Dan Kitrosser the lighthearted evening directed by Isaac Byrne pokes fun at the racial divide in a carnival like setting. Desiree, named one of Huffington Post’s "Favorite Female Comedians" and NY Magazine’s "Comedians Funny People Find Funny," draws on folktales, history, and her own life in her cleverly conceived rant on rascism.
This liberal not-so-African-American takes a racist tongue in cheek look at the divide between black and white. Desiree acts as the carnival’s Master of Ceremonies with the assistance of her passive "white slave" played by Phoebe MarHalkowich. What Desiree does best in Tar Baby is tell funny stories about what it is like not to feel black enough to some people, but too black to other people. All the while she makes broad comments on race and politics in the Obama era, while seducing audience members up on stage to participate in the fun then turning on them by calling them racist.
Directed by Isaac Byrne the interactive evening plays like an overlong series of skits with audience participation. Burch seduces willing people onstage joking with them and ordering them around like her slaves. Each new idea plays on the same predictable theme of calling out the white members of the audience for their racism. There is a frenetic energy that often gets in the way of the fun.
Burch’s tales are filled with ploys and she often switches gears abruptly for comic affect or to suddenly become sincere. In one illuminating segment she describes auditioning for a casting director, who felt she wasn’t black enough. He gives her stereotypical notes on how to be blacker which the actress acts out in a series of amusing failures at becoming what he wants. The result is both funny and uncomfortable at the same time, which may very well be the intent of the evening.
Desiree Burch has performed five original solo performances at venues including PS 122, Joe’s Pub, Ars Nova, 59E59, Dixon Place, Galapagos Art Space, Yale University, and at Fringe Festivals in New York, London, New Orleans, Hollywood, and Edinburgh. Her comedy has been seen at Caroline’s, Gotham Comedy Club, Highlights (UK), on VH1, MTV, NBC, Comedy Central and the stage of Saturday Night Live. A refreshing voice Desiree is also a member of the Drama Desk-nominated and NY Innovative Theater Award-winning ensemble, The New York Neo-Futurists.
TAR BABY is now playing at the DR 2 Theater, 103 East 15th Street between Irving Place and Union Square, through January 19, 2013 Sunday – Tuesday at 7:30pm and Thursday – Saturday at 8pm. Tickets are $30, available at Telecharge.com or 212-239-6200.
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Opening Night Photography Barry Gordin