Evaluation | ‘Ain’t No Mo’ ’ presents side-splitting laughs and gut-punching truths

Senegal is the vacation spot on African American Airways Flight 1619 in “Ain’t No Mo’,” playwright Jordan E. Cooper’s searingly satirical tragicomedy now onstage at Woolly Mammoth Theatre, and each Black particular person stateside should depart or consent to “racial transmogrification.”

An electrical Jon Hudson Odom performs drag queen Peaches, the gate agent in a framing gadget structured across the final “reparations” flight to depart American shores — captained by Barack Obama himself, no much less. However the vacation spot is much less integral to “Ain’t No Mo’ ” than its myriad layovers, as Cooper muses on the Black American expertise by means of loosely linked, time-jumping vignettes. Police violence, reproductive well being care, cultural appropriation, the jail industrial advanced: Cooper delivers absurdist situations with a knack for splitting your sides earlier than delivering a punch to your intestine.

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“Ain’t No Mo’ ” originated at New York’s Public Theater in 2019, and that Stevie Walker-Webb-directed manufacturing is headed to Broadway this fall with filmmaker Lee Daniels as a producer. Within the Woolly model, mounted in affiliation with Baltimore Middle Stage, the sketch-show-like format lands within the succesful arms of director Lili-Anne Brown. The onetime Second Metropolis performer succeeds by giving Odom — whose ferociously flippant Peaches is the play’s emcee of kinds — and a chameleonic five-actor ensemble free rein to play up Cooper’s incisive materials.

Breon Arzell shines within the opening vignette, as a preacher mourning the dying of “Brother Proper To Complain” within the wake of Obama’s 2008 election victory, guiding the voice-cracking character by means of a call-and-response earlier than taking part in the scene’s sobering finish with soul-piercing ache. Arzell additionally leaves an impression because the gossip-thirsty, hand fan-wielding host of “The Actual Child Mamas of the South Aspect,” a sketch that cleverly interrogates actuality tv’s artifice.

Shannon Matesky stands out in that scene as effectively, as a brassy Rachel Dolezal analog with no scarcity of self-righteousness. Shannon Dorsey is heartbreaking in an early vignette in regards to the limitless anxieties of elevating a Black little one in fashionable America. LaNisa Frederick delights because the personification of Black in a sketch a few rich household that has misplaced contact with its roots, then devastates as a prisoner unprepared for her return to society. Maybe no performer yields extra laughs than Brandi Porter, a charismatic stage presence with an uncanny knack for punching up the humor.

If there’s a nit to be picked right here, it’s one in all pacing for a play wherein a few sketches transfer a tad too leisurely. From a craft perspective, Brown oversees a tiptop manufacturing. Arnel Sancianco’s transformative set — a classy airport gate that reinvents itself from sketch to sketch — elevates the phantasm, as do the stainless particulars of Yvonne Miranda’s eye-popping costumes. Colin Ok. Payments’s spot-on lighting leaves a selected impression within the jail scene, as bolder colours give technique to a chilly, fluorescent haze.

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Contemplating the playbill presents the timing as “Any Day Now” (other than the 2008-set opener), it shouldn’t shock that Cooper’s script speaks to the second in methods each pointed and unanticipated. For instance, upon studying of the free passage to Africa, one character responds, “Why would I belief a airplane ticket from the federal government?”

It’s a line that hits with renewed resonance after dozens of migrants had been duped into flying to Martha’s Winery final week. As “Ain’t No Mo’ ” sadly however sharply illustrates, that model of American callousness has no departure date.

Ain’t No Mo’, by Jordan E. Cooper. Directed by Lili-Anne Brown. Units, Arnel Sancianco; costumes, Yvonne Miranda; lighting, Colin Ok. Payments; sound, Tosin Olufolabi; combat and intimacy choreography, Jyreika Visitor. About two hours. $20-$67, with a restricted variety of pay-what-you-will tickets. By means of Oct. 9 at Woolly Mammoth Theatre, 641 D St. NW. woollymammoth.internet.

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