“Hooded, or Being Black for Dummies” received a standing ovation following its world premiere Monday, Jan. 30 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center in Northeast.
Serge Seiden (“When January Feels Like Summer,” “Bad Jews”) directs, with associate director Vaughn Ryan Midder (“When January Feels Like Summer,” “Milk Like Sugar”), this timely and cutting satire by rising star and D.C. native Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm that explores themes such as race and identity, police misconduct and the recent murders of African-American men.
Hooded follows two young African-American men, Marquis (Keith L. Royal Smith) and Tru (Jeremy Keith Hunter), who meet in a holding cell where they are both being unlawfully detained. Marquis is a book-smart teen attending “Achievement Heights Prep” in suburban Maryland, and Tru is a street-savvy dropout from Baltimore. Tru finds that Marquis has lost touch with his black roots and pens a manual called “Being Black for Dummies.” With some resistance, Marquis allows Tru to take him a journey that disrupts his world.
“Hooded” is full of realistic and precise dialogue between the two boys and the internal and external forces working over Marquis, about everything from code switching, racial objectification and even when to use the N-word. The audience laughed as the two conflicting characters debate, forge a familial bond and come to the conclusion that 19th century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and rapper Tupac Shakur were basically saying the same things about duality of identity.
The powerful and timely drama navigates through a gripping and comical script about what it is to be black in America in a time where there has been a resurgence of race relation crises.
The cast brings Chisholm’s dynamic script to life, captivating the audience in moments of both revelry and tragedy. In addition to Smith and Hunter, the cast also includes stage and screen actor Frederick Strother, Helen Hayes award-winning actress Jennifer Mendelhall, Josh Adams, Madeline Burrows, Emma Lou Hébert and Dylan Morrison Myers.
The satire follows Kirsten Greenidge’s “Milk Like Sugar” and Philip Dawkins’ “Charm” to culminate the Mosaic Theater Company’s three-part “Clamour Encounters: Coming of Age in America” series, which showcases the life of urban youth.
“Hooded” will run at varying times Wednesday through Sunday until its closing performance Sunday, Feb. 19, which will be followed by a 75-minute discussion with the playwright, cast, community leaders and members of the audience about race in America.
Tickets can be purchased on the Mosaic Theatre website or at the Atlas Performing Arts Central Box Office.