3/Fifths' Trapped in a Traveling
Conceived and Written by James Scruggs
Directed by Mark Rayment
If you can see only one show in the remainder of 2017, this should be it.
Writer James Scruggs wrenches the audience out of their comfort zone and into the hilarious, haunting and tragic center of the lives of two black men, framed through a minstrel show. Right from the start the show shocks.
The second half, after an unexpected twist, devolves into a courtroom scene. The audience is asked to judge contemporary court cases like the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
This juxtaposition allows the company to illustrate both the long history of racial oppression and the current day application of it. The minstrel makeup may have changed, but it still lives.
“3/Fifths’ Trapped In a Traveling Minstrel Show” is uncomfortable and confrontational. And it should be. Full Review
Celina Colby The Bay State Banner
The play’s subtitle sums up Scruggs’ political intent: “America’s original sin continues, in word, song and dance.” The mischievous goal is to send-up, with appropriately savage glee, a (still) popular tradition of racist dehumanization. This show does not offer the respite of nostalgia: ”The past is never dead. It’s not even past,”" observed William Faulkner. Scruggs is interested in the monstrous (and murderous) ways in which the past manages to stay alive.
Around mid-way through, Trapped takes a deadly serious turn. Revealing the twist would involve giving away a crucial spoiler; suffice it to say that an effective attempt is made to challenge audiences (particularly whites) to grapple with their complicity in accepting the status quo, particularly the death of young black men at the hands of the police. Around mid-way through, Trapped takes a deadly serious turn. Revealing the twist would involve giving away a crucial spoiler; suffice it to say that an effective attempt is made to challenge audiences (particularly whites) to grapple with their complicity in accepting the status quo, particularly the death of young black men at the hands of the police. Full Review
Bill Marx The Arts Fuse
Enraged, outraged, exasperated, and confrontational, the show forces us to look at our nation's ugly past and contemplate the present. Questions of bias in policing and criminal justice come to the fore, as do issues of cultural appropriation; those two themes seem central to the project, and a lyric from the free-wheeling first musical number boils down the essence of what's in store with a concise couplet:
"Our existence ignites your hate
As our culture you appropriate."
The show is conceived and written by Scruggs, but director Mark Rayment pulls nary a punch. After 75 taut, increasingly distressing minutes, you walk out feeling uncertain of exactly what just happened, but suspecting you've just tasted the barest hint of the sort of unhinged abuse our system has unleashed on generations of Americans based on nothing but the color of their skin. Full Review
Edge Media Network
3/Fifths’ Trapped in a Traveling Minstrel Show reclaims appropriated Black culture so to spit racism into the faces of oppressors. It’s beautiful and horrifying. 3/Fifths’ is a mirror showing us who we already are.
3/Fifths’ is a minstrel show dressed up for modern audiences. Scruggs has written a tightly written script that director Rayment has perfected for the BCA.
Scruggs’ script calls for audience participation in devious ways. For example, we’re asked to vote for our favorite rock ‘n roll performers via green or red voting sticks while bright stage lights beam down on us. The props look like auction paddle sticks. From the stage, we audience members must look like we are bidding on the Black people on stage. Full Review
Kitty Drexel The New England Theatre Geek