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    American Ma(u)l

    God slave America

    A little over the top but still on-target, "American Ma(u)l" pits two American families against each other in a country that has turned back to slavery to solve its economic woes.


    An exaggerated, hyperenergetic polemic on racial issues in the U.S., "American Ma(u)l" takes a lot of risks and, for the most part, pulls them off.

    Company: Reverie Productions.
    Written and directed by: Robert O'Hara.
    Cast: Richarda Abrams, Chad Beckim, Colman Domingo, Susan Greenhill, Suzette Gunn, Charles Karel, Greg Keller, Maurice McRae, Lloyd Porter, Ariel Shafir.

    Related links: Official site
    Culture Project / 45 Bleecker
    45 Bleecker St. at Lafayette
    Previews start: April 12, 2003
    April 14 - May 4, 2003

    Set in the fictional town of Near, the play tells the story of two families: the Jeffersons, who are black, and the Franklins, who are mostly white (they have a black son). They live next doot to each other and the Jeffersons' young daughter, Juliet, is romantically involved with with the Franklins' black son, named Wesson, and dumps him for the white son, named Smith, causing much distress.

    Suddenly the robotic, twentysomething president announces that the only way to cure the country's failing economy is to repeal the 14th Amendment and reinstitute slavery, throwing the lives of the two families into upheaval. The Jeffersons go to Monticello to claim a "presidential whiteness" exemption and wheelchairbound Mr. Franklin suddenly walks and decides to burn a cross on the Jeffersons' lawn. Juliet gets called up to report for her slave duties and decides to run away, as Smith tries to convince his family to buy her.

    To watch "American Ma(u)l" is to witness a performance that is so hyperactive, it's almost cartoonlike — more like Fritz the Cat than Spongebob Squarepants. It's not for the politically oversensitive — the word "nigger" gets tossed around quite a bit, as do other words that some may find offensive.

    What makes "American Ma(u)l" work is its biting sense of satire and its intelligence, which fuses with parody to make the play a biting commentary on the divisiveness of racial matters. The performances are vivid and lively. It's a very physical play, most notably in the brilliantly choreographed sequence where runaway slave Juliet gets caught and beaten by a mob.

    The play riffs on history, showing key figures in satirical light. It is a little long — one imagines it could have ended at several junctures before it eventually does — but if you're up for a wild ride through the chequered underbelly of American history, "American Ma(u)l" will be quite an eye-opening journey.

    APRIL 24, 2003

    Reader comments on American Ma(u)l:

  • clockwork organge   from Ronnie, Aug 30, 2003
  • missed some things   from Jonathan, Jul 20, 2006

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