Redbone Coonhound: FIRE! (and misfires)

playwright photos: Redbone Coonhound

Playwrights Amy Lee Lavoie and Omari Newton

Written by married couple Omari Newton and Amy Lee Lavoie, Redbone Coonhound isn’t always subtle or precisely focused, but it’s got force!

It’s about Michael, who’s married to Marissa. As in the Newton/Lavoie marriage, he’s Black, she’s white, and they live in Vancouver’s West End. The story gets triggered when Michael and Marissa meet a Seattle couple who are jogging on the seawall with their dog, which is a Redbone Coonhound, an American breed used for hunting racoons and other large game.

Michael is incensed by the casual use of the breed’s name, which, in his view, contains two racial slurs. The term “redbone” can refer to light- or reddish-skinned people who are a mix of Black and other races. When used by Black people, “coon” refers to other Black folks who may suffer from racial self-hatred. It can be used to insult Black men who only date white women, for instance.

The central storyline in Redbone Coonhound concerns Michael, Marissa, and their friends in present-day Vancouver but, with the help of a narrator (artfully voiced by Tom Pickett in the Arts Club’s audio presentation), it leaps into fantastical dimensions that exist in the space “between white fragility and Black fatigue”. When the Coonhound chases Michael into Stanley Park, for instance, he transforms into his great-great-grandfather, who’s trying to escape the American South and get to Canada via the underground railroad in 1840.

I’m a white guy: keep that in mind as I try to articulate my response. [Read more…]

Someone Like You: Cyrano de Bergerac but more on the nose

Politically, Christine Quintana’s new audio play Someone Like You is busy: it takes on fat phobia, racism, misogyny, and the capitalist commodification of human longing. That’s a worthy line-up of targets. Too worthy, as it turns out. Thematically, Someone Like You becomes a checklist — and it goes on for more than two hours. [Read more…]

Night Passing: You can give it a pass

Poster advertising the Arts Club Theatre's production of Scott Button's Night PassingWell-intentioned and over two-hours long, the audio play Night Passing is, unfortunately, boring.

Set in Ottawa in 1958, playwright Scott Button’s script explores the entrapment of gay men and lesbians by the RCMP. Fueled by anti-communist hysteria south of the border, the force was trying to “cleanse” the civil service of queer folk who were, presumably, easier to blackmail.

Entrapment is, of course, blackmail by the establishment.

Just after he moves to Ottawa from a small town, Button’s protagonist, Elliot, is seduced into making out in an alley with a creepy undercover cop who insists on being called Dad. Photos are taken. Dad pressures Elliot into informing on other gay men. [Read more…]

Unexpecting: we should expect more

Arts Club's poster for UnexpectingBronwyn Carradine is a recent alumnus of the Arts Club’s Emerging Playwrights’ Unit. That means she’s veryfreshly baked, but she’s already demonstrating considerable control of craft in her new audio play Unexpecting.

Carradine’s story is about lesbian couple Annie and Jo. They fervently want to adopt a baby but their careers as a writer and painter/gallery owner hit the skids just as they become finalists in a selection process that will be decided by Sawyer, the biological mom-to-be. [Read more…]

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