Letter to the Editor:
Nick Green, you are obviously a white man. I read your review of my play, Four Queens–No Trump [Section Two, November 7], and it is perfectly understandable why you attack me and not deal with your misunderstanding of my play.
How could you? Like most arrogant white people you think you know black culture better than we know it ourselves. This play is not for you. You should feel privileged that you got a chance to see a side of black culture that you will never encounter in your private life.
Of course, I am an easy target. It doesn’t enhance your credibility as a reviewer to take potshots at my past accomplishments on The Love Boat. Come on Nick, even you think you’re better than that.
But let’s deal with what the public really wants to know . . . is Four Queens a good play? Is it worth venturing to the Onyx Theatre? Here’s where you really fall down. You call the writing bland, predictable, and superficial. Be specific Nick; how is it bland? What could you predict? Why did you think it was superficial?
Four black women having a rousing game of cards is anything but bland. The mere definition of comedy is surprise. Otherwise there is no laugh. If a person can see the joke coming it won’t work. The humor of this play is dependent on surprise. If it was predictable, what did you see coming?
Superficial . . . the play deals with a true incident that happened in Electra, Texas–that is anything but superficial. I suppose you find running some niggers out of Texas a minor historical incident. Define your criticisms.
Instead of writing just to instigate contempt, why don’t you do your job and offer something a writer can use? Do some good, point up the frailties, so that I might honestly correct my play and make it better.
In other words, be a critic instead of a dilettante.
You did admit that I came up with four lively and eccentric characters. Hooray for the white man! You might as well admit that all the black people got it and you didn’t. There was a standing ovation the night that you came to see the show. How do I know this? There is a standing ovation every night by the black people in the audience. They get it. It’s for them. The first rule for any playwright is to know your audience. You ain’t it.
I understand like most white boys you have got to cut yourself away from the pack. You have got to make a name for yourself. I would hope that you would also be concerned with the truth. The truth is that black people who read your paper might actually enjoy my play, even if I did have to make my living in Hollywood as a TV bartender. But once again the arrogant white man failed in his job, because his ego got in the way.
As to your final tidbits . . . “complications that are at best forced . . . sluggish pacing, and lackluster direction,” I say the following: I work organically. I think the complications come from the characters. There is a setup to the eventual revelations, and those revelations come from who the people are. Saying that this production has sluggish pacing proves you know nothing about comedy. You probably dance off the beat too.
I don’t know what you consider luster directing, but I’d love to see a play that you gave a good review, so I could compare your pedestrian tastes to what is essentially a black experience.
Yes, the play is two and a half hours long. I have been told to cut it on several occasions. The suggestion has always come from white males who want to put me in my place. I always ask black folks if they think the play is too long. The answer is always the same, always unanimous, “Hell no, brother, I had a good time.”
You see, Nick, you are at a disadvantage. I tried the play out somewhere else first to see if it worked. It did. And you have not added anything new to the mix to make it a better play. Just some snide remarks worthy of that New York racist critic, John Simon.
I hope, in the future, that you will not stoop so low as to take shots at a sitcom actor but actually do your job and review the work. There are some people in this business that actually love the theater and want to further their skills and become better at what they do. That is not obviously one of your goals. I suggest you limit yourself to reviewing TV shows.