Theater Review: NCSU’s Satirical ‘The Colored Museum’ Uncorks 300 Years of Oppression

The North Carolina State University production of George C. Wolfe’s The Colored Museum is discomforting, and that is one of the strongest arguments for going to see it. It is a slap-in-your-face satirical play that challenges the audience to think and unpack any preconceived notions about race in America.

Opening the show is Miss Pat, a flight attendant for Celebrity Slave Ship Airlines, the gateway into this history lesson. What unfolds next is a series of exhibits, short vignettes, that speak to a cultural heritage rooted in 300 years of oppression. Fasten your shackles, because this is going to be a bumpy ride.

There are a lot of moving parts to this University Theatre production. From Jayme Mellema’s crisp “revolving door” set to Joshua Reaves’ larger-than-life projections to Laura Parker’s cohesive costume color story to the tech crew backstage and the cast onstage, there is a lot that could go wrong. It doesn’t. In fact, all of the elements come together like a well-oiled machine to amplify Wolfe’s sharp-witted script and the underlying themes of the play. And that is a credit to Ron Foreman’s laser-focused direction that feels as if it’s been sculpted over many years. Foreman served as the music director on both previous University Theatre productions of The Colored Museum under the direction of Dr. Patricia Capel. His insight, perspective, and experience with the piece, not to mention his passion for it, are fully displayed here both onstage and off.

Perhaps what is most striking about The Colored Museum is the fact that although it premiered in the 1980s, there is a timelessness to it that will inflame some contemporary audiences and exasperate others. Either way, it is a museum tour worth taking if you’re willing to be catapulted out of your comfort zone for just a bit.

The Colored Museum runs through Sunday, November 24th. For more information visit https://theatre.arts.ncsu.edu/2019-2020-season-master/the-colored-museum-by-george-c-wolfe/ or the RDU on Stage Calendar Page.

Hear what Ron Foreman (Director, Miss Roj) has to say to RDU on Stage about The Colored Museum.

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