E. Cooper, as the flight attendant Peaches, in Ain’t No Mo’ at the
sketch, part satire, part avant garde, part drag, Jordan E. Cooper’s Ain’t
No Mo’ is altogether a fascinating piece of theater that examines the African-American
experience in a daringly fresh manner. Directed by Stevie Walker-Webb, it is a trenchant
comedy that invites one to take a closer look at the value of Black lives.
play’s premise is a mass African-American exodus from the U.S. that poses this
overarching question: What if the U.S. government offered Black Americans
one-way plane tickets to Africa? Framed by scenes at an airport, Ain’t
No Mo’ makes stops in a funeral parlor, a tv studio, an abortion
clinic, a mansion, and a prison. A lone flight attendant, Peaches, (Jordan E.
Cooper) intermittently shepherds passengers to board Flight 1619 (the year the
first enslaved Africans disembarked onto Virginia soil). It’s a “reparations
flight” being offered in the aftermath of the election of the first
African-American president in 2008. Obviously, the playwright doesn’t believe
that having a Black president is going to solve all the problems besetting Blacks
in America. And those who watch Ain’t No Mo’, with its character
Peaches as the author’s mouthpiece, may well understand why.
play attracted lots of attention when it winged into the Public
Theater in March 2019. The New York Times critic Jesse Green praised it as
“nothing less than a spiritual portrait of black American life right now, with
all its terrors, hopes and contradictions.” That said, its transfer to the
main stem has been a real reason for celebration. Even though it has no big names
in the cast to draw folks to the box office, it’s relying on its brilliant
originality and genuine talent in the cast and creative team to keep it alive
at 27, with his debut of Ain’t No Mo’ on the Great White Way, becomes
the youngest American playwright in Broadway history. Since the playwright also
performs the drag queen Peaches in the production, it’s truly a remarkable
accomplishment for him.
what makes this show so riveting? For starters, the performance of Cooper as Peaches
in drag is unforgettable. Dressed in a pink outfit (costume design by Emilio
Sosa) and spewing a vocabulary that would make a truck driver blush, Peaches serves
as ticket-taker, check-in person, and overseer of the mass African-American exodus
to Africa. This drag queen is also the anchor of the play, reappearing now and
then after the various surreal trips through time and space.
Jacquet, Shannon Matesky, Marchánt Davis, Crystal Lucas-Perry, and Ebony
Marshall-Oliver in Jordan E. Cooper’s Ain’t No Mo’ at the Belasco.
Cooper is the true star of the show, the rest of the six-member cast—Marchánt
Davis, Fedna Jacquet, Crystal Lucas-Perry, Ebony Marshall-Oliver, Shannon
Matesky— are more than able to hold their own on stage. All can incredibly
insinuate themselves into their multi-personas to meet the dramatic moment and
deepen Ain’t No Mo’s profound probing into racism in America.
all the skits are over-the-top. But that is a compliment as well as a
critique. No question some vignettes truly stand out. The first, at a funeral
parlor, shows Pastor Freeman (the excellent Marchánt Davis), eulogizing brother
Righttocomplain, an allegorical figure who calls to mind all the injustices
committed against Blacks in America. Another scene, at an abortion clinic, poignantly
revolves around Trisha (Fedna Jacquet), waiting to be called into a back room
for her abortion, which will ensure that her unborn child won’t ever become a
a later scene, fiscal matters become the focus, as the character Marie (Jacquet
again) astutely points out from the comfort of her mansion: “It’s like daddy
always said, there is no black or white, you’re either green or you’re not.”
truth arrives in the penultimate scene when the Black inmate Lakeisha (Jacquet
again), waiting in the release wing of a prison, remarks: “They tryna take us
to Africa. That’s the only reason why they letting us out.”
Scott Pask’s multiple sets, complemented by Adam Honoré’s lighting, the action
unfolds at a brisk clip. The play clocks in at 90 minutes sans intermission; and
its eight tightly-written scenes contribute to the play’s overall sense of
No Mo’ outshines
any high school civics class when it comes to referring to recent tragic events
triggered by racism in America. To wit: the Flint Water Crisis, the deaths
of Oscar Grant, Alyana Jones, Trayson Martin, Rekia Boyd, Jordan David—to
mention just a few.
Lucas-Perry in Jordan E. Cooper’s Ain’t No More at the Belaso.
Ain’t No Mo’ might not be for conventional-minded theatergoers, it is a
play for those who believe that the relationship between Blacks and Whites in
America must change for the better.
the Belasco Theatre, 111 West 44 Street, midtown Manhattan.
more information, visit www.aintnomobway.com
time: 90 minutes with no intermission.