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Review of Day of Absence

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Over the summer, On Q Productions will be taking their Miles & Coltrane: Blue to the New York and the Edinburgh Fringe Festivals -- if they can raise the necessary cash. Last week's revival of Day of Absence conclusively demonstrated that Q, namely founder/director Quentin "Q" Talley and his co-conspirators, deserve the community's support.

Douglas Turner Ward's 1965 satire puts all its black actors in whiteface, impersonating the crackers of a Deep South town, from hayseeds up to the town's Mayor, facing -- and hilariously crumbling under -- an unprecedented crisis. Every Negro in town has disappeared, leaving nobody in town to cook meals, clean toilets, or supply the full range of skills necessary for child rearing. Breastfeeding, diapering, and discipline go on back order. Puzzlement, consternation, and panic quickly grip the town as effete white folk confront the possibility of fending for themselves.

Of course, at no time during this crisis does the total disintegration of daily change these dimwits' valuation of the absent Negros. Quite the contrary, as collective outrage builds and the runaways cannot be found.

Boris "Bluz" Rogers and Clem Robinson upstaged each other's Southern twangs as the hayseeds lazily settin' and rockin' on a storefront porch. Their slow-to-ignite mellowness contrasted nicely with the fiery, irascible Mayor, a screamingly funny performance by Sultan Omar El-Amin. Now a fire-spewing tyrant must always have an accessory toady, quaking at the prospect of delivering fresh bad news to Hizzoner and stoking his temper even hotter. Gerald Hazleton was born for the role. Spoken word superstar Carlos Robson was the other standout, portraying the local TV announcer/interviewer -- such a rare manifestation of common sense that he wore no whiteface at all.

At times, I wondered how Day of Absence would play if Mexican immigrants, the menial ethnicity du jour of 2009, were donning the whiteface. Or why not spread the fun among all the so-called minorities who are, in reality, America's majority -- except in economic clout? But such thoughts did not crop up for long. I was having too much fun on my joyride to 1965.

A send-off performance of Miles & Coltrane is slated for June 27 at the McGlohon.

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