Living black and proud
Guild Theatre2828 35th St.
Sacramento, CA 95817
In a racially diverse (and highly race-conscious) place like America, how do you move through life when you’re an African-American man with a skin tone so light that many people doubt your “blackness”? That interesting personal dilemma is one of the starting points for Donald E. Lacy Jr.’s one-man show, Colorstruck.
Lacy, a professional actor, appeared locally (and memorably) earlier this year as the itinerant black peddler/Underground Railroad guide Solly Two Kings in the Sacramento Theatre Company’s production of August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean. And I’ll admit it; when Lacy first came onstage, I did a double take. “Do they have a white actor in the role?” I thought at the time.
Lacy, of course, has been dealing with this issue of perception for decades, and in Colorstruck, he works in a funny routine about being mistaken for an Arab when flying during the aftermath of the September 11 hijackings.
In addition to humorous stories relating to skin color, Lacy generates quite a bit of laughter talking about hair—specifically, the different commercial products and sometimes painful home methods that black folks have used to turn naturally “nappy” hair into “nice” (straight) hair. This routine includes photos from several decades and, of course, a bad wig.
The show also includes discussions of the black family, including youthful run-ins with parents and grandparents, and life in East Oakland. With his manic pacing, holding a microphone and telling stories, Lacy sometimes resembles the late Redd Foxx, though there’s no need to worry; Lacy never gets as raunchy as Foxx.
Lacy also gets seriously into politics and social justice. He’s unabashedly nostalgic for the Black Panther Party, referring to it by the original name, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. He makes references to American slavery and calls for restitution. He shows a montage of gruesome black-and-white photos of lynchings while Billie Holiday’s haunting “Strange Fruit” plays in the background. It’s the sort of merger of comedy and activism long identified with Dick Gregory.
And naturally, there are respectful references to the first black president of the United States, Barack Obama, as well as remarks praising first lady Michelle Obama’s beauty and brains. One assumes that this is material that was not part of Lacy’s show when he was initially developing it in Oakland back around 2006, when President Obama was a long-shot candidate for the White House.
There are also tributes to iconic figures from sports (including Muhammad Ali), literature (W.E.B. Du Bois is quoted pointedly) and music, including James Brown (especially “Say It Loud—I’m Black and I’m Proud”) and Marvin Gaye (“What’s Going On”).
Colorstruck isn’t precisely a play; it’s more an idiosyncratic monologue, intensely funny at times and a poke in the rib at others. Talking frankly about race can make almost anybody feel uncomfortable, and Lacy isn’t afraid to go there when it serves his purpose.
Seeing Colorstruck at the Guild Theater in Oak Park—an old black neighborhood—with a largely black audience is a plus. There’s no intermission, and a discussion follows. Opening the show is a short set of songs performed (over recorded instrumental tracks) by LaKeisha Star Mondy and “Classic” Chris Jones.
Presented by Images Theatre locally, the show next goes to Washington, D.C.