‘Thoughts of a Colored Man’ on Broadway Has a Lot to Say
Sometimes plays reach to be something else. At their most urgent they can be manifestos, like Keenan Scott II’s Thoughts of a Colored Man, which opens tonight on Broadway in the same week that Jon Gruden resigned as the coach of the Las Vegas Raiders after various racist, sexist, homophobic, and transphobic comments he had made in the past were exposed.
It opens as America and American theater’s reckoning with race and racism, brought into sharp focus by the murder of George Floyd, is ongoing. It opens as Black people’s voting rights are being brazenly curtailed. It opens as the Texas state legislature, in a wider climate of transphobia, is on the verge of passing a bill Republican lawmakers have been chomping at the bit to pass which will stop trans kids from playing sports. All of these things circulated in the critic’s mind after viewing Thoughts of a Colored Man. Is this a conventional play? No. Its animating principle is that sometimes things just need to be said.
While the play, directed by Steve H. Broadnax III, was not written in response to events of right now, it is a timely and sometimes moving interrogation of what it means to be a Black man at this moment. The play speaks bluntly and directly to an audience about what racism, inequality, aspiration, love, sexuality, tragedy, success, and happiness look like to a broad group of Black men in contemporary Brooklyn. It is unabashedly earnest.