By Kelly Luck
“Black Leaves, Black Roots” is unconventional by even Fringe standards, but itis crucial work, and it is impactful. Using a variety of theatrical techniques including audience interaction, recorded spoken word and vignettes, it is an unflinching look at being black in America. For some in the audience it may be Harsh Realities 101, but for many it may be a cathartic scream of things too seldom said--or rather, too seldom heard.
The production begins the moment the audience is allowed into the theater, a little spontaneous audience participation to set the mood and charge the blood. The rest proceeds with monologues, live and recorded, often portrayed with dance or movement, and a series of vignettes about a young black man who is taken into custody because a convenience store was trashed during a riot. Not that he was there, but his “type” was. In the collective cultural myopia of the nation, he has--is--a type. And in the eyes of the police, that is who he is, and it is all that they need.
The show is short, clocking in around 40 minutes, but fills every moment. It does not pull punches, does not hold back on what it needs to say. This show, in short, is not here for your feelings. It is here to be heard and seen. And if you think that it will rile you, you may be right. And if you think that it will make you uncomfortable, you are almost certainly right.
And that, that, is why you need to see it.