Two African American professors dueling about tenure and academic inequalities may not sound like an enticing premise, but adding the slippery socio- political landscape of identity, racial stereotypes and cutthroat competition makes for an enthralling production. MMPAACT Theatre’s “Blackademics,” part comedy, part metaphor-filled drama with a dash of the macabre, intrigues with fast-paced dialogue and craftily drawn scenarios covering a lot more than academia. Unfolding in an experimental restaurant where utensils and comfort are not part of the dining experience, Ann (Demetria Thomas) and Rachelle ( a kinetic LaNisa Renee Frederick) are colleagues pitted against each other by nefarious waitress Georgia ( an effectively weird Kate McCandless) and by the sexist, racist Academy. Playwright Idris Goodwin explores the hidden world of African American academics with wit and insight while Marie Cisco and Shepsu Aakhu deliver a light-handed touch to a heavy topic.
With textured live music from Red Clay and a clever soundscape by Souls of Black Folk underscoring riveting scenes of Ann and Rachelle battling for literal and metaphorical sustenance, the compelling one act play engages on many levels. Tackling everything from the “post black” reality to the relevance of Black History Month, “Blackacademics” relishes not pulling any punches. When lamenting the doomed life of her drug pushing brother, Ann confesses “We do the same thing really. We just push a different sort of mind altering drug.” Avoiding glib conclusions and prodding the audience to go a little deeper, “Black Academics” provokes as well as entertains.