Review of Black Light at Joe's Pub at the Public Theater
Black Light created by Daniel Alexander Jones and performed by his alter ego, Jomama Jones, at Joe's Pub is part memoir, part coming-to-church revival meeting and part political essay. It is all intimate, cabaret, performance art. Jomama asks us many questions and like any good philosopher only implies answers.
With stories and original songs Jomama asks us to explore with her the societal and political ills she cares so deeply about. Every theme is approached with understanding and tenderness rather than reproach and fury. Jomama knows we are only human and imperfect, though she asks us to strive for perfection, "We can do better," she tells us.
At the top of the show Jomama gives the audience permission to look at her, then asks us if she has permission to look at us. When we only answer with a nod or a smile, Jomama pokes fun at our current cure for sexual harassment, "I need loud verbal consent. If it's yes, shout yes."
A childhood story of a love for Prince, where young girls carve out pieces of the artist's image from a poster, claiming the various parts as theirs, is a poignant analogy of slavery and colonialism/imperialism.
Jomama had a childhood that left a lasting and strong impression on her. I don't know if the memoir pieces are autobiographical stories from Daniel Alexander Jones' childhood or not, but either way, childhood and it's impact on who we become deeply informs Black Light.
Songs come after cautionary tales and highlight what we should learn, anthems for the issues Jomama teaches us about. There are musical references from gospel to Frank Zappa. The band is wonderful and Daniel and the other singers have strong beautiful voices. Daniel's range is amazing, or maybe Jomama has the smoothest most natural sounding falsetto I've ever heard. The songs themselves are not memorable. Most are very wordy and lack the repetition, both lyrically and melodically, that is needed to walk out singing or humming a tune.
Black Light is fun and meaningful. A necessary reminder of all that we still have to fight for. As Jomama tells us, "We have experienced a soft coup." Thankfully we have Jomama's Great Aunt, Cleotha, who keeps a shotgun by her side because "they" are still out there, and she must, "stay vigilant so y'all can sleep." I am relieved and encouraged to know that Daniel Alexander Jones's and Jomama's beautiful black lights are here staying vigilant and inspiring change. Can I get a witness? I said, can I get a witness?
(Photo by Joan Marcus)
What the popular press says...
"Although the original "Afromystical" songs don't always rise to the occasion, it's a pleasure to bask in Jones's sequined, oracular presence, especially when Jones allows us to see the pain and labor behind the all-but-impervious diva's self-fashioning."
Adam Feldman for Time Out New York
External links to full reviews from popular press...
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