Ain’t No Mo’
At Wooly Mammoth Theatre
The press release from the theatre says this about the show. “It’s the final boarding call for African American Airlines’ Flight 1619 to Africa, and every Black person in the United States gets a free ticket. In a kaleidoscope of scenes capturing the moments surrounding this outrageous departure, Jordan E. Cooper’s vibrant, no-holds-barred comedy examines the lives of Black Americans in the aftermath of the election of a Black president – and hurtling toward the point of no return.”
There is no question Jordan Cooper is a brilliant young playwright and he captured what I, as an older white man, believe was the feeling of many Black Americans with the election of Barack Obama. Cooper wrote this play when he was a student at the New School in New York and it was produced as a workshop production at the Public Theater in New York in 2017 when he was just 22.
It has all the passion and energy I have seen in my young friends who live in these turbulent times. They want to, and should, change this world for the better. Cooper portrays racism in all its versions and in many ways hits us over the head with it, but does it with humor, which is a good thing.
Let me begin by saying the acting is brilliant. Jon Hudson Odom (Peaches) is a marvel and commands the stage with his presence. The rest of the cast is also incredible and I hesitate to pick out any one for special mention as they are all special. When they speak you listen. Shannon Dorsey, Breon Arzell, Lanisa Frederick, Melanie A. Lawrence, Shannon Matesky, Brandi Porter, Joshua Street, and Renee Elizabeth Wilson take what Cooper wrote and bring it alive. They manage to mix the humor with the seriousness of the topic which only great actors can do.
Then there is the superlative creative team who help bring all this alive for the audience. From lighting to wigs and costumes, they add to both the drama and humor. Colin K. Bills, Lighting Designer; Korie Booker, Wig Stylist; Jyreika Guest, Fight and Intimacy Coordinator; Yvonne L. Miranda, Costume Designer; and Dana Hurd, Special Effects and Makeup Stylist.
So yes, I enjoyed Ain’t No Mo’, but I have to warn you this play is presented without intermission. It is one hour and fifty-five minutes long. Add to that an 8:00 pm curtain and the play didn’t begin until 8:20. So you were in your seat for no less than two hours and fifteen minutes without an intermission. That is too long.
I assume that was the choice of Lili-Anne Brown who directed this production. While I enjoyed the play there were many scenes which could have been shortened. There seemed to be ways to easily cut at least twenty minutes out of the production without anyone missing the point it was making, one which is important for people to hear.
The New York Times in reviewing the New York production said, AIN’T NO MO’ is “…thrilling, bewildering, campy, shrewd, mortifying, scary, devastating, and deep.” I agree with all that for this production but would definitely add, ‘too long’. Ain’t No Mo’ is at the Woolly Mammoth until October 9th.