Recommended **** “Carlyle” is an intelligent, engaging and timely comedy about a charming young man who happens to be black and – oh, horrors! – a Republican. Going in, I wasn’t sure whether “Carlyle” was going to be a tongue-in-cheek poke at the far right or a conservative paean. It turned out to be a wickedly funny satire which pokes fun at lots of sacred cows. It was very well acted and it made me laugh, so I give it 4 Spotlights.
For pollsters and politicians certain voting patterns are sacrosanct. They count on liberals, soccer moms, conservatives, Hispanics, the religious right, women and the southern states to vote in predictable ways; and they always assume that blacks are going to vote Democratic.
Carlyle Meyers (James Earl Jones II) is a conservative Republican who happens to be black. He says there are plenty of black politicians, people like Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell – Ben Carson is beneath his notice – and his hero, Clarence Thomas. Mentioning the Justice, whom he clerked for, he gets all verklempt. He claimed that Anita Hill was never sexually harassed, in fact, in his view, she seduced his mentor – acted out in graphic detail by Tim Edward Rhoze and Charlette Speigner provoking gasps, laughs and choked groans from aghast audience members.
In a quick aside, he asked the audience to bow heads in memory of Antonin Scalia, another conservative icon.
Returning to his own story, he explained why he has nothing in common with the stereotypical black. His father (Tim Edward Rhoze), a Harvard graduate and Wall Street investment banker he grew up in Connecticut. He never even met another black until his exclusive prep school decided to give a couple of scholarships to students from the ghetto.
Those kids – stereotypical portrayal ghetto blacks – made fun of Carlyle – the way he dressed, his friends, his grades. He tried to change his style, but they never really accepted him. After his grades started falling, the headmaster got on his case, as did his father. Eventually the ghetto kids left after they found drugs in one student’s locker and another got pregnant and dropped out. Carlyle went back to his perfect white life.
Carlyle had a crisis of faith when he found out that Affirmative Action got him into Harvard. His father told him to quit whining, he was a legacy. His father said to take advantage of everything Harvard had to offer. His roommate, Omar (Levenix Riddle), became his best friend, even though Omar was a Democrat. Carlyle joined Young Republicans where he met smarmy Janice (Tiffany Scott), his future wife.
After he proposed, Janice invited Carlyle and his father to dinner with her parents. At one point, everyone at the table pulled out a concealed weapon. After comparing guns, the discussion turned to politics. Whey they found out Carlyle was a Republican, Janice’s parents welcomed him to the family.
When Carlyle was making a speech, a youngish woman in the audience stood up to protest his position on feminism. Another heckler, an older white man who described himself as a longtime subscriber at the Goodman, objected rather vehemently to the woman. Their face-off was a hoot.
The very talented ensemble, Charlette Speigner, Patrick Clear, Nate Wheldon and Maureen Gallagher, play multiple characters. At the curtain call, the hecklers from the audience, who turned out to be Jess Berry and Don Tieri join the rest of the cast.
“Carlyle” runs through May 1st at the Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn, Chicago.
Running time is 90 minutes, no intermission.
Fridays at 8:00 pm
Saturdays at 2:00 and 8:00 pm
Sundays at 2:00 and 7:30 pm.
Tickets range from $10-$40. Parking is available at a slightly reduced rate in the Government Center Garage (with a validation) or you can take advantage of the new online payment option: payment in advance is just $16.00. FYI (312) 443-3800 or www.goodmantheatre.org.
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