Hooded, or Being Black for Dummies Review – Satire at its Best

Brent Grimes and Jalen K. Stewart in HOODED, OR BEING BLACK FOR DUMMIES - Photo by Cooper Bates
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Penned by rising-star playwright Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm, HOODED, OR BEING BLACK FOR DUMMIES makes its Los Angeles debut in 2022, when the Echo Theater Company tackles this totally irreverent, ferociously funny, bitingly dark comedy about the meaning of “blackness” in today’s world. No holds are barred as HOODED explores racial identity, privilege, and pop culture with insight, passion, and hilarious humor. But, just in case the audience misses the point, HOODED even has a neon “laugh” sign to clue them in.

Tasha Ames, Clare Margaret Donovan, Betsy Stewart, Jalen K. Stewart, and Brent Grimes – Photo by Cooper Bates

The coming-of-age story begins when Marquis and Tru, both 14-year-old black boys, meet in the holding cell of their local constabulary. Marquis (Jalen K. Stewart) lives in the affluent suburb of Achievement Heights and attends a private prep school; a prep school prank landed him in his current situation. Meanwhile Tru (Brent Grimes) is a street savvy kid from deep within the inner city of Baltimore; he maintains that his color landed him in the same cell. It doesn’t take long for Tru to decide that Marquis, adopted by a white family at birth, has lost touch with his black roots. But Tru has plans to acclimate a reluctant Marquis to what he needs to know about being black. In fact, Tru writes a guide – along with a compendium of 2pac’s lyrical words – to help Marquis in his transition. But when Marquis loses his Guide, rippling effects begin to overtake his pals at the prep school. Hunter (Vincent Doud) thinks that it might be fun to be black, while Fielder (Ezekiel Goodman) is never sure exactly what’s happening to his closest friends. Meanwhile, the preppie girls (Betsy Stewart, Tasha Ames, Clare Margaret Donovan) just might find blackness to be a turn-on.

Jalen K. Stewart, Vincent Doud, and Ezekiel Goodman – Photo by Cooper Bates

Helmed by skilled director Ahmed Best, this fresh, very funny, satirical take on “blackness” becomes the most politically incorrect view of racism to hit live theater this year. And a chuckle-fest, to boot. To quote Best, “It builds a world where we can question our perception and beliefs about one another and discover the sameness in our differences.” After all, weren’t Nietzsche and 2pac really saying the same thing? Aided by a very talented cast led by Grimes and Stewart, this uproarious over-the-top comedy steams along until its final, gripping conclusion. HOODED is definitely a thought-provoking look at the racial and cultural stereotypes and prejudices which often create today’s headlines. And which represent the conundrum facing people trying to understand the social dynamics going on all around them. Besides that, HOODED is also highly entertaining – a double whammy for the audience: to laugh and to learn at the same time.

Jalen K. Stewart and Brent Grimes – Photo by Cooper Bates

HOODED, OR BEING BLACK FOR DUMMIES runs through April 18, 2022, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, and Mondays, and at 4 p.m. on Sundays. The Echo Theater Company performs at the Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90039. Tickets are $34 with Pay-What-You-Want on Mondays. Proof of full vaccination or a negative PCR test within 72 hours (plus valid identification) are required for admission; patrons must also remain fully masked throughout the performances. For information and reservations, call 310-307-3753 or go online.


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