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‘For Black Boys . . .’ at Rose Theater; ‘Talking Dirty’ at the Burbage; ‘Tuxedo in Twilight’ at Gaylor; ‘A Month in the Country’ at Theatre 40

“For Black Boys Who Have Considered Homicide When the Streets Were Too Much” is Keith Antar Mason’s response to Ntozake Shange’s choreopoem, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf.”

Six young black men (compared with Shange’s seven young black women) prowl the stage of the Rose Theater, speaking Mason’s poetry, most of it about what it’s like to be young, scorned and black. They occasionally break into dance, twice asking women from the front row of the audience to be their partners. But the prevailing tone is bitter instead of buoyant.

The emoting gets a bit thick at times, and some of the ensemble work (directed by Mason himself) is noisy and unfocused, diluting the force of the intended statement. Not all of Mason’s poetry is equally stageworthy, either. Some of it gets lost in abstraction.

He and his show are at their best when they get down to specifics: a tale of a little boy whose fears were calmed by Nina Simone, a troubled man’s impressions of his aging mother, a systems design engineer’s account of being accused of rape, a look back from beyond the grave by the victim of a stabbing.

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Mason’s complaints about the behavior of women don’t have the impact that they might have if we had just a little more information about the relationships being disparaged. It also would expand the scope of the piece if we heard from at least one young black father.

A couple of the performers contribute particularly striking moments. But it’s hard to know who does what. The characters aren’t identified until the curtain call, and even then they’re quickly introduced as “Bro 34" or “Bro 3" or another random number. Mason is making a point about the culture’s dehumanization of young black men, but the actors seem somewhat dehumanized in the process.

The tattered production design is generally evocative, crowned by a noose dangling over center stage. Unfortunately, a relentlessly flashing light offstage distracts more than it evokes, especially for those on the left side of the house.

‘Talking Dirty’

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Sherman Snukal’s “Talking Dirty” has been a big hit in Canada, according to its press release. While watching the first two acts of this silly comedy, a co-production of the 21st Street Theatre and the Burbage Theatre, at the Burbage, it helps to remember that Canada also gave us “SCTV” and Le Cirque du Soleil. Otherwise “Talking Dirty” could lead one to think unpleasant thoughts about maple leaves.

Snukal redeems himself ever so slightly in the third act (which is two acts too many for this show.) The ending is rampantly unhappy--which is precisely what most of these characters deserve.

The putative protagonist is a Vancouver philosophy instructor (Patrick Pankhurst) who, at 33, has just backed out of a long-term love affair with Beth (Carole Wyand). He’s visited by a married school chum (Carl Walsh) who has the eight-year itch and wants some advice on what to do about it.

Two other women are on hand, including a bimbo (Dyanne DiRosario) who wanders into the plot and turns it around, in an extremely contrived manner. Not much likelier is the sudden affair that occurs between the chum and the other woman (Pamela Thompson) between acts two and three.

This bland sitcom seems too predictable and protracted to be the hit that it apparently became in Canada. Michael Haney’s staging does nothing to explain this baffling success story.

‘Tuxedo in Twilight’

More from the Great White North: Canadian performer Daryl Williamson presents “Tuxedo in Twilight” at the Cassandra Gaylor Theater. It looks like an audition piece for the next sequel to “The Exorcist.”

It’s not bad as an audition piece. Williamson plays a young man who’s exorcising a demon who has been gnawing at him for a long time. He growls and howls and throws himself around the stage. It’s an impressive workout, from a technical point of view.

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But the piece seems awfully straightforward and straight-faced about this devil business. Like so many other solo shows, this one doesn’t resonate beyond the corners of this tiny room. Alfredo Criado directed.

‘A Month in the Country’

The characters of Ivan Turgenev’s “A Month in the Country” (at Theatre 40) pay close attention to their own and each other’s ages. Yet in casting several key roles, director Joel Asher ignored their ages.

Playing the central parts of a 36-year-old woman and her 17-year-old ward are Deborah and Susan Fallender, respectively--two sisters who look as if they’re virtually the same age (which appears to be closer to 36 than to 17). The oldest man in the play, a suitor whose 48 years are supposed to be entirely inappropriate for the 17-year-old ward, is played by Jerry Beal, who looks no more than half his character’s age.

Age wasn’t the only factor to be disregarded in the casting. The should-be heartthrob has a pinched face and moves without a hint of grace. Allan Kolman, playing the stolid landowner and neglectful husband, looks more like a flamboyant artiste.

The show has the hallmarks of a bad community theater production, complete with missed cues and actors who move heavy set pieces around the stage in between or even during scenes.


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