The Signature Theater is hosting a revival of the Negro Ensemble Company plays. The last of the series, Zooman and The Sign, is playing now. If you are in NY, you should go and see it. Tickets are only $20.
Zooman is written by Charles Fuller, who is best known for A Soldier’s Play which was made in a movie starring Denzel Washington. Zooman, written a few years earlier is the story of a Philadelphia family, devasted by a stray bullet that kills their twelve year old daughter. I know that black urban tragedy is kind of done, but I cut the play slack because A) It was written twenty years ago and B) THE ACTING IS FANTASTIC.
Rosalyn Coleman plays the grieving mother. I knew that she was a acting powerhouse– afterall, she has originated several August Wilson roles on Broadway. AND, although this isn’t so highbrow, I just loved her on “Law & Order”. All this is to say that I went in with high hopes. And I left with even greater respect. Variety describes her as “beautiful and tragic” in the role. I say she is just brilliant. (My fantasy: For her to play Octavia’s mother in Leaving Atlanta!)
Zooman is not a perfect play. The costumes are a little off, and there are some plot twists that are just plain hinky. But still, the story gets you in gut. One of the things that really struck me is that the play seemed weirdly dated in some ways– the killer carries a boom-box, for example– but in other ways, the pain of neighborhood violence is horribly timeless. One of the major plot-issues is that no one in the neighborhood will come out and identify the killers; doesn’t that sound familiar? When I asked Rosalyn Coleman how she prepared for the role, she mentioned watching the news.
That’s a shame-and-a-half. To prepare for a role in a story set thirty years ago, she just turns on her TV to the 6pm news. Black mothers mourning their babies– it still happens every day.