By: Paulanne Simmons
October 13, 2019: Playwright Jeremy O. Harris is making his Broadway debut this season with Slave Play, which premiered last season at New York Theater Workshop. The play, directed by John O’Hara, can be summed up as follows:
Part One: Three skits, in the style of Saturday Night Live, a bit more prurient and a lot longer, are set in the antebellum South. One concerns the slave Kaneisha (Joaquina Kalukango) and the boorish white overseer, Jim (Paul Alexander Nolan), who lusts after her. Another is about Alana (Annie McNamara) a married Southern belle who seduces her house slave, Philip (Sullivan Jones), and ends up completing the seduction with a black dildo. The last skit involves the slave, Gary (Ato Blankson-Wood), and the object of his desire, Dustin (James Cusati-Moyer), the white indentured servant he has been put in charge of.
Carol Burnett’s “Went with the Wind” is a lot funnier and, when you come down to it, a lot more biting.
Part Two: The three skits morph into a sit-com, as we find out Part One was really a session of the “Antebellum Sexual Performance Therapy” the couples have undertaken so the white partners can figure out how to make their black partners happier. Group therapy (predictably) reveals the inherent racism of the white partners and the victimhood of the black partners. In fact (guess what) the actual relationships of the couples mirror those of their antebellum selves.
Part Three: A bedroom scene between Kaneisha and Jim in which she talks about his white, shriveled penis and Jim parades around naked to show everyone that his penis might be white, but it is neither shriveled nor small.
Not surprisingly, Harris is a 30-year-old graduate student of the Yale School of Drama. Enough said.
Slave Play **
Booth Theater, 252 W. 45th St., NYC.
Tue 7pm, Wed 2pm & 8pm, Thu 7pm, Fri 8pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 3pm.
Running time: two hours with no intermission. $39—$159. (212) 239-6200. www.telecharge.com. Oct. 6—Jan. 5.
Photography: Matthew Murphy