In their earlier piece Fierce Love, with which they made their Chicago debut last year, this San Francisco-based performance trio used a comedy-sketch format to hilariously skewer stereotypes blacks and gays have of each other and themselves. Their follow-up show Dark Fruit, here for a two-week run, is less tightly structured than its predecessor, less insistently funny, less concerned with external images--it's deeper, more personal, and often more painful in its ambivalent perspective on racial and sexual matters. In the most complex vignette Djola Branner discusses his unresolved relationship with his mother, whose Alzheimer's-impaired memory makes it impossible for him to confront her now that he's strong enough to do so; combining confessional story telling with theatrical characterization, Branner portrays himself, his mother, and an audience member outraged that a black man would publicly dis his parent. In "Tasty," Marvin K. White traces a sexual triangle between a black office worker, an oreo exec he flirts with on the job, and the exec's white boyfriend, who is appalled not so much by the infidelity as by his lover's choice of another black for a "taste on the side"; the scene burns with confusion and humiliation yet keeps us at a critical distance from the situation. "Black & Gay: A Psycho-Sexual Study" evokes adolescent anxiety in its documentary-film-style depiction of forbidden feelings between two teenage boys, one black and one white. And "Chocolate City, USA" starts with head Pomo Brian Freeman's reminiscence of the 1987 gay-rights March on Washington, then segues into a choral-poetry "open letter" to platitudinous policy shapers on all sides of the AIDS issue--from Magic to the media, from the AIDS-foundation elite to the homophobic black churches ("How many organists will you go through before you do more than light a candle?"). Intelligently conceived and skillfully performed, this is pungent, thoughtful stuff, recommended for those who don't mind having their preconceptions shaken up a bit. Randolph Street Gallery, 756 N. Milwaukee, 666-7737. September 17 through 26: Fridays-Saturdays, 8 PM; Sunday, September 19, 8 PM; Sunday, September 26, 2 PM. $12.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jill Posener.