Betrayal of the Black Jesus

Seven Schaffer

Seven Schaffer

Downs … L. Roi Hopkins

Jonathan (Skibow)

Morrison …Darryl A. Stamp

Shabazz … Walter Coppage

Cassandra Taylor

Atkinson … Lynn Anitra King

Bobby Wright … Kurtis Armstrong

Arnie Stamotokos/

Man in Audience … Ken Boehr

Woman in Audience … Carolyn Cox

Young Woman

in Audience … Tiffany Sipple

Television

Newscaster … Beverly Chapman

“Betrayal of the Black Jesus” has some meaty, controversial material. David Barr’s premise is rather broad, stretching a little thin as it tries todeal with what has happened to the radical “Black Jesus” cohorts of the 1960s; black nationalism and reverse discrimination; black racism; the demise of the black power movements; and current television attempts to raise ratings by capitalizingon these issues.

A onetime leader in the movement, Cassandra Atkinson (Lynn Anitra King), and two former colleagues, Morrison (Darryl A. Stamp) and Shabazz (Walter Coppage), are concerned and hold a meeting after they learn of the murder of Bobby Wright, their group’s founder. Atkinson has won a number of achievement awards from black organizations and is accused of becoming bourgeois. Shabazz has turned Muslim after serving 18 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. Morrison works as a security guard and has published a soul food cookbook.

Throughout, they ponder the destiny of the movement, and in the end conclude it is becoming obsolete and that blacks should turn their attention to more pertinent matters, pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, get in the mainstream of business, politics and society and minimize blaming whites.

Host of the talkshow “Downs Talk” is Schaffer Downs (L. Roi Hopkins), a former network host who’s now working locally in Chicago. He schemes to return to a network niche and invites the trio to guest on his show, hoping their rage over the murder will excite viewers and raise his ratings. Violence does erupt on the show, to his glee, when audience members supposedly chosen at random raise questions that enrage Morrison.

Author Barr is the lead writer on a syndicated TV show, “Take Two,” and knows whereof he speaks. But he has spread the proceedings over a dozen set changes and resorts frequently to confusing flashbacks. Some points about the future of the movement also seem belabored. Director Jacqueline L. Gafford, nevertheless, draws solid performances from a talented cast. Barr has written well, and this should be good theater in regional legits, especially metro centers.

Betrayal of the Black Jesus

Production: KANSAS CITY A Unicorn Theater presentation of a play in two acts by David Barr III. Directed by Jacqueline L. Gafford.

Crew: Set, B. Michael Yeager; lighting, Ruth E. Cain; sound, Roger Stoddard; costumes, Mary Traylor; stage manager, Robert Fould. Producing artistic director, Cynthia Levin. Opened, reviewed Jan. 25, 1995, at the Unicorn Theater; 150 seats; $ 17 top. Running time: 1 HOUR, 50 MIN.

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