I’ve been here before. The last time I reviewed a play from the PC Theatre department, it was the musical, Quilters, which I did not like. I caught a lot of flak for that article and was called ignorant and uneducated about theatre. Perhaps that is the case because I was certainly in the minority. Once again, I am in the minority for not liking the new production, This is Not Me. At the end of the show, everyone was bursting with delight and enjoyment, but my reception was lukewarm at best.
I will at least make the distinction between myself not liking the play and the play being objectively bad. If we are to trust a consensus, it is a good play. I honestly encourage everyone to attend the play in support of the theatre department but also because most of you will like it. I found the writing to be a noble attempt at a commentary on stereotypes, identity, and the relationships and interactions between the two. However, it was not, in my opinion, a strong attempt. I never really got to know the characters because they were used in bits and pieces in different vignettes and seemed to shift personas often. There was also no overall plot to the play. I can accept that, but I would like at least characters or plot to bind the play into a cohesive whole, rather than relying on themes and motifs. The play was narrative theatre, so this all occurred by design. It’s not my fault for disliking narrative theatre, but it is hardly the play’s fault either.
Furthermore, much of the writing was heavy-handed. There is no subtlety with its intentions, and many of the stereotypes and prejudices that are lampooned feel forced to begin with. I think the type of racism and discrimination normally found in society is less noticeable to the observers and even to the individual. Then the play pleasantly surprised me with the monologue on White Pride, which delicately observed the nuances in racism and “reverse racism.” The McDonald’s monologue as well as the speech on “stimulating” the disabled with jobs also lampooned how prejudice is usually just below the surface rather than out in the open. The issue isn’t simply (pun fully intended) black and white, and that’s where the play shined. I really liked the scenes where the types of prejudice they highlighted were not heavy handed teaching tools. Some of these monologues were taken from other sources, and I enjoyed how well they were integrated with the play.
The humor of the play was top notch. There are several jokes that reverse stereotypes, but the result is supposed to be humorous rather than profound (which is good because many of the suppositions are no longer earth-shattering and many of the stereotypes no longer stick). The acting was fantastic, and I’m impressed that Thomas Jonte can really dish out notes on a ukulele. All of the cast (Jeremy Cole, Denera James, Megan Jennings, Thomas Jonte, Lanier Smith, and Savannah Truesdale) had fun with their roles, and it was easy to pick up on that.
I wanted to like the play. I really did. It was funny, it had a good heart, and the actors performed well. I couldn’t get into it, but the reasons were mostly aesthetic differences between my preferences and the play’s intentions. So, how else can I end this review other than to say go see the play? You will probably love it and rightly so.