Young Jean Lee's THE SHIPMENT Oct 2, 2009

by Tania Kupczak

While I like a work of theatre that is entertaining, I also like one that makes me challenge my own assumptions, has an emotional punch, and gets people talking — THE SHIPMENT does it all. Racial issues in America are always a sensitive and thorny subject to tackle, and this piece does it with humor, and while it might not seem like it as you feel like you’ve been punched by what’s been said on stage, with delicacy. Young Jean Lee and her talented cast have built a finely crafted piece that moves through several familiar genres of performance: dance, song, stand up comedy, a stereotypical  "after school special" about the evils of rap, and your basic drawing room drama. The familiarity of these forms initially puts you at ease – you think you know what to expect, but then the brutal frankness of the subject matter makes you squirm.

This show made me uncomfortable, it made me laugh, I even got teary at one point as the protagonist of the second half of the play screamed out (from a black male mouth) my own terrible fear about turning 30. And what is beautiful about this piece (among many things) is that I am sure every single person in that audience had a very different and very visceral response to the performance, as they each filtered it through their own cultural lens.

The statement has (ridiculously) been made that we are a country that has moved beyond race. The extreme falsity of that claim means that now, more than ever, we need to have shows like THE SHIPMENT that challenge audiences and foster dialogue. Everyone should go see this. Take your friends. Take your mom. Take a high school student you know. And let’s start talking about these issues, because that’s the only path to beginning healing.

- Lezlie Cross