According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Mammy Project

This critical and, at times, educational jaunt through the past 140 years of historical and pop culture representation of the African American woman is marred by the writer's need to lighten the mood and shock the audience. This one woman show which was created out of the desire to, in the artists words, "show my abilities and talents beyond what the industry could fathom," proves that even the most personal project doesn't spell success.
Reviewed by Kristyn R Smith

The Mammy Project attempts a difficult mission in its short hour-long running time. The goal- to cultivate a discussion of the stereotypes that have plagued African American people from the days of slavery, and thereby alter our perceptions - is not consistently effective. Reasons include the short-scene method used for covering such a vast time span, as well as the clown-y shock-value style acting. The solo performance by Michelle Matlock, who is also the writer/creator, has moments of poignancy. Her strengths, and in turn, the piece's strengths, derive from the historic creation of Aunt Jemima and the woman who was the first to bring this “larger than life” character to the world, Nancy Green. Character development here is minimal, as Matlock seems intent on portraying as many different people as she can, story notwithstanding. Even then, the speech excerpts from the likes of Booker T. Washington and Fredrick Douglas are intriguing. If only these dramatic vignettes weren’t interspersed - interrupted - by poorly executed mime, prat falls, obscenities, and sexual innuendo. One glance at the publicity poster below says it all.

I can appreciate the message that this work tries to get across. It is important to tear down walls built by stereotypes. Unfortunately, this mission derails through missteps inherent in the writer-performer relationship. For Michelle Matlock composing and starring in her own show is an excellent way to showcase her skills, but considering what she brings to the table, and the magnitude of her project, it's a challenge indeed to convince her audience of the seriousness of her mission.
The Mammy Project is playing in repertory at
The American Theatre of Actors
314 West 54th Street
Now through February 10, 2007
Tickets are $18

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