A young black man is killed over a pair of expensive sneakers and his attacker, another teenager recites the sneaker commercial’s slogan as he commits the crime. This sounds like something out of the current news headline, but it is really the opening scene from Honky, a new play presented at Urban Stages, 259 west 30TH Street. The dark comedy takes us from the streets to the advertising department of an African-American athletic shoe company. The Caucasian CEO wants to exploit the murder to attract young white suburban consumers, who fantasize about urban thug life, to buy the sneakers.
The play cleverly addresses an abundant number of social issues including: racial profiling, white guilt, overt and systemic racism, stereotypes, interracial relationships, black rage and political correctness, and none of the primary characters in this multi-racial production are exempt. At one point a pill called Driscotol is introduced, which promises to suppress thoughts of racism in the brain. Playwright Greg Kalleres has created a thought-provoking satire, which asked many questions and delivers as many answers. While director Luke Harlan keeps the production fast paced and engaging. Roman Tatarowicz’s utilitarian yet sparse multi-purpose set and Caite Hevner’s projection designs allow us to quickly travel from the boardroom, to the bed, and back via the subway.
And the brilliant cast of eight performers accompanied us on this comedic social rollercoaster. Phillip Callen as Davis, the wonderfully misguided CEO who discovers his inner racist; Thomas the conflicted black sneaker designer, played by Anthony Gaskins; Dave Droxler is the guilt ridden Peter, who created the slogan to sound “black” with deadly consequences. Andie the “very white” very naïve fiancé of Peter performed by Danielle Faitelson; Arie Bianca Thompson as the African American female therapist in need of therapy and Scott Barrow as Dr. Driscoll the inventor of the racism cure-all Driscotol are offset by Chris Myers and Reynaldo Piniella who portray playground thugs, and provide a social consciousness.
Honky runs through April 7. Tickets are $40 and can be purchased at the Urban Stages box office and on line at www.urbanstages.org/. Due to the intimate size of the venue we suggest purchasing tickets in advance. If you want to have a real interesting time bring a friend(s) of different ethnic background(s), then go have drinks afterwards and see if who can find their inner racist.