red, black & GREEN: a blues

by Bryce Lambert on May 14, 2012

Iam not going to write too much about red, black & GREEN: a blues, since the show has already left town after a 2-night stint at the ICA, even though I really couldn’t say enough about how remarkably good it was. That said, it’s always difficult to write about the kind of experimental performance pieces the ICA books, and although red, black & GREEN is completely free of over-intellectualized abstraction, it pulls together so many themes and stories and art forms, that I’m still digesting it three days after seeing it. It was a riveting three-ring circus of dance, song, rap, percussion, slam poetry, storytelling, and art installation. Early on, during a kind of prologue, in what seemed like a bit of self praise, the narration confidently described the ‘skills’ required for the performance: singing, dancing, architectural engineering. I rolled my eyes at this. Fifteen minutes later, I was ready to take it back. red, black & GREEN is at one level, an athletic feat, that requires so much talent, stamina, and physical and artistic dexterity, that any self praise is more than warranted.

red, black & GREEN pulls so much together in what’s clearly a very complex collaboration (the program notes list about a dozen bios), without ever coming off as muddled or overladen. The show was as seamlessly integrated as I could imagine. And what it does even better than pulling together the various forms of dance, song, poetry, etc., is layering together all its themes and stories, that run from the autobiographical to larger connections between sons and mothers, fathers and sons, food and the land, and aging and the body. We get all this, with the critical, self-reflective gaze characteristic of slam poetry. And although I was a annoyed at the mmmhmms coming from the audience, I’ll say the show communicated just the right amount of discomfort and racial tension to this white audience member, as the show traveled from Oakland’s Lil’ Bobby Hutton Park to Houston shotgun houses. Thanks to Marc Bamuthi Joseph and company for such a beautiful, smart, thought-provoking, and multi-talented performance of great sincerity. This is as close to the Truth as art gets.

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