Black Rep’s season opener uses minimalism to maximize performances
Sept. 4 marked the opening of the Black Rep’s 43rd season with “Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope,” a musical revue by Micki Grant. With very little dialogue between songs, “Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope” provides a social commentary that is still relevant in 2019 despite a publication date in the early 1970.
Through high-energy songs and dance numbers that bring together a wealth of styles and genres, this season opener does not disappoint. Focusing on the Black experience through topics such as gender inequality, Black power, gentrification and the lives that Black people lead, “Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope” uses stunning visuals and tableaus to inspire and educate.
Minimalism was an overarching theme in the show. In regards to set and prop usage, the show employed a light hand. The band was situated on raised platforms instead of hidden away, which both gave the show more of a concert feel and made the stage feel fuller, not only because of the amount of space the band required but also because of the quality and quantity of sound. Along with the raised platforms, the set consisted of multiple panels that images and patterns were projected onto. These colorful screens emphasized the tone for each number and added to the overall vibrancy of the show. Costume-wise, there were very few changes, with only a few pieces being added here and there equating for the majority of wardrobe differences. With two main dancers and nine cast members who did the bulk of the singing, the cast was small and intimate; the perfect size for a show of this type as a big cast would feel cluttered and unnecessary.
While minimal in presentation, the show was plentiful in Washington University faculty. The show is directed by Wash. U. professor and alumnus Ron Himes, who is also the founder and producing director of the Black Rep, and is choreographed by MFA dance instructor Kirven Douthit-Boyd. MFA dance instructor Antonio Douthit-Boyd is also one of the main dancers in the production.
“Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope” runs until Sept. 22 in Edison Theatre, with evening shows on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and a Sunday matinee at 3 p.m.
The rest of the season is as follows: “Two Trains Running” by August Wilson, “Spell #7” by Ntozake Shange and “Marie and Rosetta” by George Brant. Season 43 is dedicated in memory of Linda Alton Randall Kennedy, an early and constant supporter of the Black Rep.