There’s a good reason why Brian Copeland’s Not a Genuine Black Man (at the Marsh Berkeley, directed by David Ford) is the longest running solo show in Bay Area history, and there’s a good reason why it’s about to close. The first is that his story, about a life of discovering, internalizing and then combating racial prejudice, is richly imagined and compellingly performed. It’s also brave. Candid discussions about race polarize and politicize, even—or especially—in a supposedly enlightened place like Berkeley. When your audience consists mostly of educated, liberal white people, how do you tell it like it is without completely alienating them or without losing your status as a "genuine black man"?
Copeland’s answer is to just be honest. He shares his experiences in a voice that is distinctly his own, never resorting to truism but rather letting his memories speak for themselves. And they do, eloquently. What he reveals in his two-hour life story is not just a genuine black man, but also a genuine human being—which, his play suggests, are both the same thing and worlds apart. But after a seven-year run, the show is nearing its end—but only because his next play, The Waiting Period, is about to go into workshop. In the meantime, Not a Genuine Black Man continues through July 14. Info here.