Aziza Barnes has nothing against Lena Dunham, author of the hit HBO show Girls. Audiences and critics have likened Barnes’ play, BLKS – which premiered at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater–to Dunham’s series.Yet how many storylines of black, queer life have been depicted over the course of that 6 season television show? Answer: none.
Without waiting to see a reflection of one’s self in media, Barnes decided to create a slice of life which represents the reality of they’s worldview. Fortunately for us MCC picked up this edgy and poetic voice and brought BLKS to New York. It is a voice which not only should be heard–it must be heard.
Director Robert O’Hara (himself an accomplished playwright) and his casting directors have assembled a wonderfully synchronistic cast that latch on to Barnes’ language with relentless, rapid fire precision, running from shocking, hilarious, and deeply poignant–sometimes all in the same line.
To reveal the plot of BLKS would be a disservice to those planning to buy a ticket. Sometimes, explanations aren’t necessary. More often than not, they foster a myopic view of those around us–making it easier to label them. Barnes has no time for it–as evidenced in the Marie Botha‘s character, “That Bitch on the Couch”–an earnest but hugely offensive “rich bitch off her daddy’s dime” who has a fling with Imani (Alfie Fuller) at a night club.
Barnes tackles so many topics and taboos head on with grit and gravitas. Too many artists try to be provocative and fail because the provocation is worn on the sleeve. Here, it simply exists and therefore, is provocative.
Take a risk. See something that will educate and challenge you–and walk into this with little knowledge of content. You’ll be entertained as hell in the process, but you’ll also leave contemplating the complexities and inequalities of race, gender, and sexuality.
BLKS runs through June 2 at The Robert W. Wilson MCC Theater Space (511 West 52nd Street between 10th and 11th), For tickets and information, click here.