Audre Lorde isn’t going to save lots of you. She’s too busy resting within the heavens of legendary artist-activists to be your private Black feminist guru. That’s what a teen gamer named Jonas finds out within the Civilians’ well-intentioned however clumsy “Black Feminist Video Game.”
Jonas (Christon Andell), our Player 1, is a biracial, autistic highschool scholar with a single working mom (Constance Fields) who has tried to show her son classes from the nice Black feminists, like bell hooks. However, Jonas learns how onerous it’s to internalize these classes when a woman he’s courting, Nicole (Starr Kirkland), breaks it off. In an try and win her again, he, with the assistance of his gamer good friend Sabine (Kyla Butts), seeks steerage from an outdated present from his mom: the 2-D online game that provides the play its title.
Written by the poet Darrel Alejandro Holnes and directed by Victoria Collado, “Black Feminist Video Game” incorporates stay performances through Zoom, precise online game footage and some gentle viewers interplay by way of YouTube chat. We watch Jonas as he conducts livestreamed video diaries — and Andell does work together with the viewers minimally, responding to viewers feedback and asking for recommendation, although the improvised prattle slows the present’s pacing and feels inorganic.
The script, too, labors by way of makes an attempt to easily and naturally be its most intersectionally woke self, however variety feels downgraded to a guidelines. (Black? Mixed-race? Queer? Autistic? Check, examine, examine, examine.) And in terms of the play’s message, with Jonas slowly understanding when he’s mansplaining and failing to really hearken to and respect Black ladies, “Black Feminist Video Game” will get unbearably preachy — and the performances don’t do a lot to assist.
At least there’s the sport itself, created by Ché Rose and Jocelyn Short of Cookout Games, which is a enjoyable, pixelated blast from the previous. Adorable avatar variations of Jonas and Sabine run by way of the degrees: the Forest of Feminist Angst, the Coven of the Many-Faced Mirrors, the Realm of Colorism, and Peak Patriarchy, the place waits the ultimate boss. Just like the foundations of the sport — which is psychic, by the best way — confound Jonas, so, too, was I confused by its logic, whilst Lorde confirmed as much as impart clever phrases to our wannabe Black feminist protagonist.
Though a notoriously dangerous crash-and-burn gamer myself, I benefit from the concept of them — video video games, but additionally video games constructed into theatrical experiences, particularly these associated to race. The pressure between politics and play is thrilling — assume “The Colored Museum,” “Underground Railroad Game” and “Black History Museum.” I even considered Kekubian Assassin, an actual cell recreation primarily based on an episode of Terence Nance’s HBO collection “Random Acts of Flyness,” during which a Black lady performs a first-person-shooter-style recreation the place she fights again towards racist and sexist road harassment. “Black Feminist Video Game” aspires to this similar diploma of poignancy and ingenuity, however regardless of its cute gameplay, it might probably’t get previous Level 1.
Black Feminist Video Game
Live performances by way of May 2; on-demand May 3-9; thecivilians.org. (The Oregon Shakespeare Festival will current performances of “Black Feminist Video Game” May 11-16, with on-demand entry obtainable May 17-23; osfashland.org.)