In front of a crowd as racially mixed as her heritage, Rain Pryor sang, danced, and joked her way through her cabaret-style one-woman show, Fried Chicken and Latkes, at Dr. Barbara Ann Teer’s National Black Theatre in Harlem last night. Directed by Kamilah Forbes, Fried Chicken and Latkes is an autobiographical play celebrating the culture clash resulting from Pryor’s Jewish and Black heritage.
Despite Pryor being the only individual on stage, it seemed as if a cast of characters was present thanks to her convincing imitations and rich character development of the 11 significant figures in her life. Each character revealed more about the racial dynamics that shaped Pryor’s childhood and made her into the woman she is today.
Her portrayal of each character was unflinchingly honest, even in the face of sensitive matters like race and her famous, yet troubled father, comedian Richard Pryor. She celebrated his comedic genius, but didn’t shy away from discussing his drug use, “WWD” (White women disease), or struggle with multiple sclerosis. Her frank emotional honesty filled the intimate space of the theater and kept viewers, including Empire‘s Gabourey Sidibe and The Mindy Project’s Xosha Roquemore, spellbound.
The show swung between irrelevant humor, poignant sadness, and strong political statements. The audience laughed at her White mother’s militant African-American beliefs, and the imitation of her father catching her sneaking in thanks to super hearing provided by cocaine. However, in the next minute, the audience was tearing up at her disturbingly vivid portrayal of her father afflicted by MS.
Pryor closed the hour and a half long show with a political call to action, where she cited the recent killings of Black men and chided the world for not confronting their “spiritual corruption.” As the audience flooded into the lobby to enjoy fried chicken and latkes, provided by Kitty’s Canteen, it was Pryor’s hope that the show’s message would stay with them.
The show runs from June 11th to June 28th at Dr. Barbara Ann Teer’s National Black Theatre in Harlem, New York. Tickets are $30 general admission, except during the final week, when they are $40. Visit NBT’s website for more information.
PHOTO CREDIT: Christine Jean Chambers