The politics of Chicago's racial divide and neighborhood hierarchies burst onto the stage with James Anthony Zoccoli's engaging performance of "Wiggerlover [white boy + black dad = grey areas]" in association with DCA Theater. A hilarious myriad of music, comedy, history and memoir, the hour-long retrospective delves into touchy topics with wit and heart.
Music plays a major role in the production, as a DJ spins old-school hip-hop and soul before and during the show. A projector flashes images of Zoccoli and his family to illustrate the scariness of late '70s fashion and the intricacies of his multi-racial family. Opening with a scene of Zoccoli auditioning for a role of a racist heckler, the performance bounces through his childhood of listening to "Rapper's Delight" and "Ring My Bell," watching "Roots" and struggling with his parents' divorce. He catches a quick lesson on race and racism when his Polish mother marries a black man from Mississippi and his maternal grandparents and Italian father quietly disappear from his life.
"Wiggerlover" examines the ignorance and pain of racism without preaching or pointing fingers. Instead, Zoccoli throws out clever observances and heartfelt experiences of a boy trying to figure out his identity. When his stepfather teaches him basketball, how to care for his dog and how not to pollute the bathroom, he questions why the media's images of black fathers don't fit his own experience.
Zoccolli spends a lot of time longing for blackness and "kinky hair that my friends can cut with a clipper, an Africa medallion and a ticket on the Soul Train." In the end, he realizes that he doesn't have to negate his whiteness to authenticate his blackness. It's an important lesson that helped him see beyond stereotypes and the expectations of the South and North side neighborhoods that he lived in. "Wiggerlover" supplies an entertaining glimpse into race relations and the often silly motivations that accompany the issue.
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