All Coons Look Alike To Me | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

All Coons Look Alike To Me 

All Coons Look Alike To Me, Oui Be Negroes, at Live Bait Theater. This production isn't as offensive as its title might suggest. Inspired by the lyrics to a popular turn-of-the-century song (mocked to great comic effect in a vaudeville routine at the show's beginning), All Coons Look Alike to Me cleverly deconstructs the evolution--or lack thereof--of racial attitudes in the last century. While the troupe's exploration of these issues is by no means exhaustive, it is thorough: the show features sketches about interracial relationships and black-on-black racism, sticky subjects that more cowardly performers would avoid entirely.

Impressively, Oui Be Negroes manage to walk a fine line between edification and entertainment. The troupe's tremendously physical performances and acute comic timing make even the most profoundly unsettling sketches--a plantation stand-up routine, a foulmouthed ventriloquist's dummy who menaces passersby--relatively easy to digest.

During the long-form improv that followed the sketch comedy, Oui Be Negroes consistently demonstrated their strength as an ensemble. After asking the audience for "something that your mama told you not to do," troupe members poked fun at themselves in a series of revealing--and often achingly funny--monologues and short scenes: self-parody is perhaps the performers' greatest strength. Although All Coons Look Alike to Me is overtly political and wholly unapologetic, it's never nauseatingly didactic or morose.

--Nick Green

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