He wanted to be a part of history and create change. He did.
Obama-olgy now playing at the Skylight Theatre Los Feliz, CA, is not particularly a story about the President or his election campaign but really of the mindset and identity of today’s youth.
Actor Nicholas Anthony Reid (Warren) absolutely embodies a middle-class, college educated, enfranchised African-American, delivering a crystal clear characterization of a young millenial, vibrantly enthusiastic about his goal: to seat this country’s first African-American candidate in the White House as an apogee of modern American History. Every moment he chronicles in his journey of hope deepens our empathetic understanding to every character, even ones we don’t necessarily like at first. And every failure brings us closer to the truth about black minority culture in America.
Naïve and idealistic Warren’s initial exuberance for his new position is quickly replaced with jarring realities about himself compared to the lower class African-American people of Cleveland, Ohio who are far removed from his own sophisticated upbringing and world views.
Obama-ology is a brilliant comedy that speaks to basic human relationships at its core through Warren’s daily positive and negative community outreach experiences, surface politics at home-base, fear of change, narcissism and critical encounters, all entrenched in campaign agenda.
Inside the impossible and sometimes dangerous life of a volunteer is the ambition of creating something extraordinary. The problem for Warren who has been hired because of his potential marketing & strategy talents however, is that he is completely unrepresentative of the people he must convince to follow him to the polls.
Although for some whites he’s black enough to get suspiciously followed through convenience stores, insulted to his face, regularly ticketed, nearly arrested and almost killed by local police, for being black or simply a proponent of the unwelcome Obama campaign, he isn’t black enough for the locals he needs to recruit. His intelligence, education, status, and speaking style – even the Buddhist prayer beads he wears – are too, uppity, too offensive, too strange to understand or familiar enough to trust. Stuck between the extremes and not entirely accepted by either, he is forced to question himself.
Obama-ology, simplistically lays down the challenging external complexities, internal emotions and identity issues of young people and especially young black people, who are wading through political/societal muck, and who are attempting to voice important personal insights into the world around them. And although the story may seem like a generational repeat of idealistic youth, its distinction pointedly resides in the hot-bed emotions and environments of the present time.
Very creative direction by Jon Lawrence Rivera who playfully weaves writer Aurin Squire’s earnest script away from heavy-handed political drama and instead offers a moving, digestible narrative in which caricature is mostly avoided. These people are real.
The screen projections throughout are a nicely set device inside the production where ‘stock’ characters offer hilariously unhelpful, pedagoguish canvassing advice. Double-cast roles by the rest of the ensemble, work well.
Starring: Brie Eley, Sally Hughes, Kurt Mason Peterson and Nicholas Anthony Reid
Photo (above): Nicholas Anthony Reid in the American Premiere of OBAMA-OLOGY by Aurin Squire