Some productions call for grander venues to play to full advantage, but this one has found a perfect home in this intimate setting. Allowing the actors to make eye contact directly with the audience, often uncomfortably so, adds an appropriate urgency to George C. Wolfe's remarkable satire of what kind of courage is needed to be black in our society. As a flight attendant instructs passengers on a slave ship headed into modern times, Stephanie Whitfield looks sweetly at those seated only a few feet in front of her and spouts the rules, such as to wear your shackles at all times. "You're going to suffer for a few hundred years," she admits with a huge smile. "But think of what you're going to mean to William Faulkner."
Under Angela Duckett's spirited direction, the cast, though occasionally uneven in performance, is uniformly committed to the work at hand. The huge-voiced Karen McClain is a standout as cooking host Aunt Ethel, brewing up a recipe in song that includes all of life's ingredients that African-Americans have had to simmer to a slow boil before achieving acceptance. Paul Jerome is exceptionally moving as a dead GI who can see the future of other black soldiers in his platoon, killing them as they sleep rather than letting them go on to live a life of pain upon returning to civilian life. LaCares Green soars as a defiant transsexual who frequents a dive of a nightclub in an effort, he says, to "communicate with my origins."
Watching this unfold is meant to be cathartic to every person in attendance, no matter what his or her ethnicity, and this humble production succeeds on every level. As our stewardess reminds us after our flight through time, "Be sure to check the overheads, because any baggage you don't claim, we trash." By the end of the evening, patrons will not only be happy to claim their societal baggage but also should be proud to hold it close to them upon departure—and to embrace it.
"The Colored Museum," presented by Angela Duckett and L.D. Green at Company of Angels, 2106 Hyperion Ave., Silverlake. Tue. & Sat. 8 pm, Sun. 7 pm. Feb. 5-Mar. 5. $12-15. (323) 883-1717.