Straight White Men – Review by Marlene S. Gaylinn

The line between despair and hope, like the line between good and evil, depends a great deal on how and where we put our energy. There is a Cherokee tale that goes like this:

A mother is teaching her son the power of self-direction: “My son,” she says, “the battle is between two “wolves” inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

Her son thought about it for a minute and then asked his mother: “Which wolf wins?” The mother replies, “The one you feed.”

Don’t be fooled by the loud music, obscene lyrics and introduction by Akito Akita and Gay Ashton Munez before the curtain rises. Unless its purpose was to make the audience feel uncomfortable, this modern play by Jean Lee is about family relationships, disappointed expectations and the anxiety of American society today. It has very little to do with sexual identity and if it was performed by straight, American black men who were fairly prosperous, it would have the same effect.
Three brothers reunite at their father’s house at Christmas time.

“Drew” (Nick Westrate), the youngest, is a novelist and teacher. “Jake” (Bill Army) the middle brother, is a banker and “Matt” (Denver Milord), the eldest, is a Harvard graduate. “Ed” (Richard Kline) is their widowed father. There’s a lot of sibling horsing around, and symbolism (the game their liberal mother created called “Privilege.” Wonderful male dancing which is at times suggestive, is choreographed by Alison Solomon. The symbolic song and dance to the musical, “Oklahoma,” is outstanding

The focus finally turns to moody Mat, the eldest brother, who is greatly disappointed by his unappreciated good doings in Ghana etc. He is living with his father who feels his son is not living up to his full potential. His brothers agree. Matt’s anxiety deepens as he ponders whether something is wrong with him, the values of our society, or, whether he should seek professional help.

This 90 minute “slice of life” play has an excellent cast directed by Mark Lamos, and will hold your interest throughout.