The Way We Were | Letters | Chicago Reader

The Way We Were 

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To the editors:

Tom Valeo's review of Chicago Cooperative Stage's presentation Joe Momma! (Reader, 3-9-90) clearly reveals that he was either in remote suburbia or Bejezus Nebraska, but surely as hell not anywhere near an inner-city Chicago high school circa the time of Dr. King's assassination. Well, I was, and contrary to Valeo's assertion that playwright Ron Mark "gets tangled up in stereotypes, platitudes, wishful thinking, and gooey sentimentality," Mr. Mark is damned accurate in his portrayal. All of these elements did exist during this time, not only at my high school, but I imagine at other inner-city high schools throughout this city and the country. My classmates and I knew teachers and administrators identical to those portrayed in Joe Momma! Valeo apparently does not believe that Sam DeFrancisco is convincing as the character Ziggy Razzowitz, nor that such teachers actually existed. Bullshit on both counts! There were hundreds of "fawning, nerdy new" teachers coming to inner-city schools for the first time during this era and many of them, though well-intentioned, were just as naive and knuckleheaded about blacks as the Ziggy played so well by Mr. DeFrancisco. Mr. Valeo views Joe Momma! as a cliche-filled silly setup with mawkish bromides and little more than a primitive scrawl simply because he himself knows absolutely zip about this part of the sixties. If he did, he would recognize that this play was not focused on the hyped and worn out blacks vs. Jews pseudo-issue, but on the much broader and complex topic of two very different groups thrown together under extreme circumstances. In summation, Mr. Valeo, Joe Momma! is a fine play. It's your review that sucks bigtime.

Lee Mathis

South Shore

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