Jenzia @ 'Slave Play' - it was all obscene

What’s it about?

Three interracial couples try to work through their trauma and erotic desires tied to slavery.

My experience.

A big black dildo. A slave woman twerking. Rihanna’s “Work” blasting over the speakers. Boot licking. Whip cracking. A dropped cantaloupe licked up off the floor. And sex: simulated blowjobs, pegging and violent submissions on beds, tables and hay bales — all within the first 40 minutes!

Slave Play is not for the faint of heart.

However, when I went to see the show, there were some fainthearted folks in attendance (like the deeply disturbed woman sitting next to me, gasping and muttering, “Oh my god!” “Jesus Christ!” and “What the hell?” at every sex act on stage). Even so, the faint of heart should try to overcome their prudery an open mind is worth it for Slave Play. And that’s coming from someone who was initially not so interested in all the Rihanna-slave-twerkin’ bidness to begin with.

You see, when I first heard the show was set in the antebellum South on a slave plantation, I expected “the usual” — another play detailing the suffering, perseverance and eventual liberation of Black slaves in America. When I sat down for two hours at a Christmas-weekend matinee, I was not expecting Kaneisha, the first slave woman we see on stage, to stop sweeping the floor and start twerking and dutty wining to “Work” instead. It was funny in a this-shouldn’t-be-happening-here kind of way, but I felt strange when every (old and white) person around me started cracking up. What was actually so funny about a slave woman twerking?  

Nothing, really, if you ask me.

But Kaneisha was up to something. When her white Mista Jim (not Masta, because he hated being called that) entered their cabin, she kept using her enslavement as a tool of sexuality. She called herself a “Negress” and lustily reminded Jim, “You got that whip, ain’tcha?,” goading him to whip her. But Jim couldn’t bring himself to do it. He even felt guilty, it seemed, being asked to do such a thing. Hmm, I thought. This was definitely not “the usual.”

That’s because Slave Play isn’t interested in the typical stereotypes of slavery. Instead, I saw complicated interracial relationships play out on stage: queer couples; couples in denial of their own Blackness or whiteness; couples, like Kaneisha and Jim, reclaiming (oftentimes abusive) sex to fix their centuries-old racial traumas. Without giving too much away, this was literal Slave “play” — or “Antebellum Sexual Performance Therapy” — a way for these interracial Black and white couples to address their intimacy problems as an “illness” historically rooted in slave-master relationships.  

It was all obscene. It was highly exhausting. It was mostly ridiculously hilarious — but then again, maybe not all of it was. As a woman of color whose boyfriend happens to be a white man, the psychology of the play even started to convince me that we carried this illness; that histories of ancestral colonization, rape and enslavement cannot be erased from our own sex life. Heavy stuff; real shit-we-don’t-like-to-talk-about stuff. Slave Play asks us to reflect on it all, literally — the backdrop of the set is a mirror. You have no choice but to take a hard look at yourself while the play is unfolding.

Now Closed. But we gotchu!

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