Review: Despite the Primping, ‘The Cotillion’ Is Far From Flawless

The enterprising president of the Harriet Holland Social Club just wants the organization to succeed. A floral centerpiece is in place, a band appears on stage, and curtains are neatly folded and tied. The debutante is well dressed and ready. By the end of the night, she hopes these young women are off to a bright future.

Collett・Robert wrote and directed and imitated the proceedings. of the debutante ball. There is an introduction of the debutante, a father and daughter dance, and a kaiseki dinner, but the production and staging are far from perfect.

2D villain Madam President (Akir Wilson) encourages newcomers (Claire Fort, Katura Brown, Starr Kirkland, Aigner Mizell, Monique St. Cyr, Portland Thomas) to prioritize looks and wealth, ignoring them and criticize. as an individual. A more enlightened vice president (hilarious Jehan O. Young with valuable passive-aggressive rhetoric and dialogue) focused less superficially on style and status, but on things like helping the community. We are pushing for something more substantial.

The script clearly has something to say about these outdated rites of passage. But Robert doesn’t go beyond the obvious. Instead of being a source of exaltation and empowerment, according to the script, black debut balls often promote regressive gender politics such as classism, colorism, and the objectification of black female bodies. Still, Cotillion isn’t the cause of the problem. They are symptoms of a more subtle social and cultural infrastructure. There is a lack of deeper exploration and character in the play that leaves us feeling underwhelmed, even as first-timers begin to question the whole event.

Structurally, the play never finds a foothold. Most of it happens in real time, but occasionally the girls speak from the future, turning into a kind of choreographic poem, posing as if they were on an auction table or tearing their dresses apart. And the uneven staging results in scenes where actors speak awkwardly, filling expected pauses rather than the natural flow of dialogue.

Even more elegant are Teresa L. Williams’ set designs that transform the theater into a ballroom, and Stacey DeRoger’s flamboyant lighting that creates a party atmosphere. And Harriet Holland Social Club’s incredible singers (Kayla Coleman, Cherry J. Davis, Christina Pitter, Montreal Walker) in shimmering dresses (awesome all-around costume design by Micah Eubanks) and choreography (Nick-High Douglas) join the Marvelettes and Ronettes. gives the atmosphere of . The music (Dionne McLain-Freeney) explores the show’s themes with clever lyrics and a catchy score played by the band on piano, upright bass and drums.

It’s almost as if “The Cotillion” tries to replicate what author Jocelyn Baio did so brilliantly with “School Girls; School Girls.” Or “African Mean Girls Play” did not criticize beauty pageants as much as the culture that created them.

After watching Robert’s show, I decided to ask my mother about her illness. I expected embarrassment from her. “It was fun,” she said. Her experience did not change her life for better or worse. “The Cotillion” forgets that this is also just a party.

Harriet Holland Social Club Hosts 84th Annual Starburst Cotillion in Renaissance Hotel Grand Ballroom
Until May 27th at the ART/New York Theater in Manhattan. New Georges.org. Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes.

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