When Keith Hamilton Cobb first took an acting class, he wanted to play Titania from A Midsummer Night's Dream. His acting teacher said no. Cobb continued to make creative suggestions; his teacher continued to say no. Finally, his teacher made recommendations. For some strange reason, all of them were "Moors." You see, Cobb is black, and his teacher was a jerk.
However, this is just one side of the racial limitations put onto to Cobb. On the flip side, in his professional career white directors would try to explain roles such as Othello to him. As Cobb says in his play American Moor, in which he also stars, they didn't trust him, a big black man, to perhaps have a fuller understanding of Othello, a big black man. Add to this that directors' suggestions often leaned toward the offensive, and it's easy to understand how and why Cobb could end up annoyed and tired and flat-out pissed.
Much of American Moor happens in Cobb's head during an audition to play Othello, with the director (Josh Tyson, in a very minor part) whitesplaining the lead character and Cobb pondering and dealing with the historical, professional, and personal ramifications of this, for him, representative life experience.
Cobb's descriptions of his life as a 6'4" black man and actor are hard-hitting. His performances of lines and speeches from Shakespeare are well-done. But I was ultimately uninvolved by American Moor. I'm not sure why, if it was the writing or the flow or that it was a Saturday matinee or that the show felt too performed. Some people in the audience were clearly touched and affected by Cobb and his show; about a dozen people gave it a standing ovation. But, for me--and I suspect for others in the audience--there was a disconnect.
Nevertheless, I am glad that the wonderful Red Bull Theatre broke from their usual centuries-old plays to produce this new show about how the classics live in today's people and how today's people live in the classics.
(press ticket; 7th row)