Wednesday, February 07, 2007

mis(Understanding) Mammy

This underdramatized, facile 80 minute monologue is an extreme case of too much tell and not enough show: we listen as sickbed-tethered Hattie McDaniel narrates the key events of her careerography to an unseen (hallucinated?) Walter White, the NAACP president who led the public campaign against her portrayals of Mammy roles. Too much of what we hear is of the "that was the year I had a role in such and such" and "do you remember when I played opposite so and so?" variety, and as her character has no arc over the course of the show, there's no dramatic conflict. What the show does have going for it is Capathia Jenkins, who plays Hattie with a credible mix of warmth and sass, and who thrills the (too few) times she gets to sing. It's almost enough to make you forgive everything else, but not quite.

1 comment:

amhnyc said...

For a good show about the history of Mammy iconography in American culture check out Michelle Matlock's The Mammy Project.