A Bit of Jones Arcana

TypewriterBack in the day when I reviewed everything under the sun and moon for Citysearch, I wrote this. I knew I'd sat through a cringe-worthy account of the Beat era before. I anticipate Hettie Jones' book to be far less irritating.

DATE: May 12, 2003

TITLE: -1 (Minus One)

WRITTEN BY: Gyavira Lasana

DIRECTED BY
: David Willinger

THEATER: Theater for the New City, 155 First Avenue, New York, NY

A reheated tale of racial tensions in 1950s Greenwich Village.

Talking ‘Bout a Revolution

On the eve of the American Civil Rights Movement, we meet black poet and activist Leo Lepard. Lepard is searching for the lesser of two evils between his white school chums, who consider themselves counter-cultural because they “smoke tea” and date “spades,” and the equally dicey Uncle-Tomming black establishment that would like to use him as their propagandist mouthpiece. Radical, and increasingly violent, racial politics beckon, and Lepard heeds the call.

Play à Clef

Minus One is based on the early career of LeRoi Jones, better known as Amiri Baraka, controversial New Jersey Poet Laureate. Shannon Bryant turns in a fine performance as the beleaguered beatnik, but the script is a stale version late 1950s American history, so oft-portrayed it’s become almost cliché. The sets don’t help matters—Theater for the New City offers a spacious stage, but the space is woefully underused.—Melissa Kirsch