I'm a gay white man. Maybe you don't care, but I thought I'd better put it out there. It's truth in advertising, so if you think I've completely missed the boat on Daniel Beaty's black (oh my God, is it black) play Resurrection, blame me now.
Mr. Rogers owns a health food store in an African-American neighborhood. He's determined to promote good eating habits. Isaac is a music entrepreneur, proudly successful despite the odds. Dre served a stint in prison, but has cleaned up his act — now he works in Rogers' store. 'Twon will be the first member of his family to attend college, though he struggled mightily with dyslexia. The Bishop is a loving husband and charismatic minister. They have their shame, secrets and unfulfilled dreams — but the black men in this multigenerational community are (gulp) a credit to their race.
That's the problem. They aren't people — they're single-theme icons who relentlessly embody African-American stereotypes. And they're so busy being stereotypes, they never for a moment become human beings.
The issues, too, are distressingly clichéd. Drugs, HIV, gay life on the down-low, obesity, financial failure — it's five anger-management seminars in one. (A sixth character, 10-year-old Eric, who dabbles in alchemy, is the Great Black Hope.) Despite the optimistic tone of the title — and those Obama-era buzzwords, "hope" and "change," scattered about — Resurrection is a huge downer, its male population self-centered and maudlin. Oh, and it's just men. Beaty offers some odes to the women in their lives, but make no mistake: This is an evening of patriarchal self-indulgence. The finale is a piece of bathetic, jaw-dropping kitsch.
What happened to the playwright whose dazzling Emergence-SEE! was such an inventive, and profoundly nonclichéd, evening of great theater? Ah, but there Beaty was both writer and performer. Resurrection attempts some of the same stylistic riffs — naturalistic conversations juxtaposed with poetic oratory, musical punctuation — but where Beaty executed it flawlessly, the six actors of Resurrection, all talented and hard-working, ultimately founder on the rocks of the turgid material.
OK, there — I've said it. Maybe you think I've missed the boat; that I'm an idiot, or a cultural ignoramus who has no right to opine on this play. Please, by all means, respond. That's what blogs are for.
Resurrection | Through Feb. 22, Philadelphia Theatre Co., Suzanne Roberts Theatre, 480 S. Broad St., 215-985-0420, philadelphiatheatrecompany.org