Evaluate: Redbone Coonhound offers a lot of comic relief whilst skewering racism and sexism

Evaluate: Redbone Coonhound offers a lot of comic relief whilst skewering racism and sexism

Lucinda Davis and Kwesi Ameyaw in Redbone Coonhound.Cylla von Tiedemann/Tarragon Theatre

  • Title: Redbone Coonhound
  • Penned by: Amy Lee Lavoie and Omari Newton
  • Director: Micheline Chevrier with Kwaku Okyere
  • Actors: Christopher Allen, Chala Hunter, Kwesi Ameyaw, Deborah Drakeford, Jesse Dwyre, Lucinda Davis, Brian Dooley
  • Business: Tarragon Theatre and Imago Theatre
  • Metropolis: Toronto
  • Operate: To March 5, 2023

Critic’s Select

With some dogs, the name is worse than the chunk. Get the Redbone Coonhound, an American breed of hunting pet whose troublesome moniker threatens to chew to shreds the connection between an interracial pair.

The few, Mike and Marissa, happen to face the aforementioned hound for the duration of a stroll along the sea wall in Vancouver’s west end. When its very pleased proprietors announce its breed, Mike, who is Black, is outraged. Marissa, who is white, thinks he’s overreacting. It is just a identify, she insists, incorporating she would not be offended by a doggy named a Honky Cracker.

Oh, what a white detail to say!

And so begins Redbone Coonhound, the sharp-fanged new seriocomedy by Amy Lee Lavoie and Omari Newton at Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre. Lavoie and Newton (an interracial pair by themselves) have crafted a work that’s a bit of a theatrical canine, way too – by turns playful and vicious as it digs deep into the divisiveness of today’s identification politics.

Mike (Christopher Allen) is pressured to describe to Marissa (Chala Hunter) why listening to a title like Redbone Coonhound hurts him: “redbone” is a expression for a gentle-skinned Black man or woman, whilst the odious slur “coon” has been reclaimed by Black lifestyle as one more label for white-appeasing Uncle Toms. But Mike himself is responsible of insensitivity, as Marissa details out, dismissing her feminine issues about endometriosis with a weak masculine attempt at sympathy.

Kwesi Ameyaw and Chala Hunter in a new manufacturing from Tarragon Theatre and Imago Theatre.Cylla von Tiedemann/Tarragon Theatre

Soon the pair are firing insults back and forth. Mike calls Marissa a “Karen” and a “white feminist.” Marissa accuses Mike of becoming a “mid-Kardashian Kanye.” Items only get uglier right after their close friends drop by: Jordan (Jesse Dwyre), an uncomfortable white true-estate investor, and Black few Aisha (Lucinda Davis), a forthright entrepreneur, and laidback Gerald (Kwesi Ameyaw), who comes about to be a cop. Recurring accusations of a variety of forms of racism, sexism and classism begin to replace meaningful dialogue. Buttons are pressed, triggers are pulled, and you can virtually come to feel the waves of rigidity rolling off the phase.

But even as things get explosive, Newton and Lavoie regularly open a valve of comic aid, in the form of broadly satirical interludes that skewer racism and sexism, past, present and foreseeable future.

1st we’re catapulted to 1858 Ontario, at a quit on the Underground Railroad, exactly where an escaped slave (Allen) is supplied enable by a properly-indicating Quaker (Brian Dooley), who is all about chat of brotherhood but treats his wife (Deborah Drakeford) like a beast of stress. Thankfully, a hip-hop Harriet Tubman (Davis) comes charging onto the scene, packing a pistol and busting some rhymes, to rescue the slave and empower the wife.

Later on, we’re treated to a spoof of 1930s little one star Shirley Temple’s tap-dance figures with Monthly bill (Bojangles) Robinson, a modern-day-working day flip on the 1960s film Guess Who’s Coming to Evening meal and a sci-fi situation about a Black place mission that has taken cancel society to the cosmic amount.

Deborah Drakeford, Christopher Allen, Chala Hunter and Brian Dooley in Redbone Coonhound.Cylla von Tiedemann/Tarragon Theatre

These sketches are amusing, with an SNL flavour, even if, as with SNL, they really don’t often land. The Shirley Temple little bit, in individual, finishes on a grim take note, with hints that the cute small actress is catering to pedophiles (a little something creator Graham Greene notoriously prompt back again in the working day). The Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner parody, in which aggressively multicultural WASP dad and mom are appalled that their daughter desires to marry a white English professor (and worse – a Tolkien professional) is a very amusing jab at liberal excess. It could have been even funnier, having said that, if Jordan Peele hadn’t by now subverted that outdated film so brilliantly in Get Out.

In actuality, Get Out is just one of a dizzying spate of latest cultural references that zing by in Lavoie and Newton’s packed, breathless script. I suspect they’ve experienced time to hone the piece. A so-known as rolling premiere, it was commissioned by Vancouver’s Arts Club Theatre, exactly where it ran past 12 months, 1st as an audio participate in, then onstage. We’re seeing a new edition co-generated by the Tarragon and Montreal’s Imago Theatre, with a unique solid and imaginative team, help save for actor Ameyaw, who was in the Arts Club phase show.

Director Micheline Chevrier, assisted by Kwaku Okyere, has supplied it a fluid staging, with passages of silent movement in between the torrents of dialogue. Busy animated sequences by Dezmond Arnkvarn glide over Jawon Kang’s stark-white set during scene adjustments and Thomas Ryder Payne’s thundering score keeps you as unsettled as the figures.

Brian Dooley and Deborah Drakeford in the participate in working at Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre.Cylla von Tiedemann/Tarragon Theatre

The actors toggle effortlessly involving their remarkable and comedic roles. Davis is priceless as the rapping Tubman and Drakeford scores laughs both equally as a dithering, Valium-popping WASP mother and as a captive Karen of the future, undertaking penance for her white privilege.

On the critical side of items, Allen conveys actual pain below Mike’s prickliness. And whilst his exchanges with Hunter’s Marissa are heated, the actual sparks fly when he last but not least squares off with Ameyaw’s sluggish-to-anger Gerald above the latter’s regulation-enforcement job in the wake of the George Floyd tragedy. As the impressive Ameyaw reveals the frustrations of a Black cop, you are reminded again of how identities so frequently obscure the person.

This is just one of those plays that requires article-demonstrate conversations. I come across I’m still speaking about Audrey Dwyer’s Calpurnia, a further provocative Canadian comedy about race, many years following I saw it. I suspect I’ll be performing the exact with Redbone Coonhound.

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