Black (play)

"Black" is a full-length play by Joyce Carol Oates first published in "Twelve Plays" (1991) and reprinted in "The Perfectionist and Other Plays" (1995). Together with "I Stand Before You Naked", "Tone Clusters", "Ontological Proof of My Existence" and "Bad Girls", "Black" is one of Oates's most frequently performed plays. The prose version of "Black" appeared in "Witness" in 1989. A revised version of the play with the title "Cry Me a River" was first performed in 1997.

Outline of the plot

Set in a middle class living room in New Jersey, the play explores the potentially lethal triangular relationship between a white woman, her white ex-husband, and her African American lover.

Jonathan Boyd is a 35 year-old photojournalist who, after months abroad, calls on his ex-wife Debra and her new boyfriend Lew Claybrook, ostensibly to fetch some boxes full of his old things. In reality, however, Boyd has come to his former home to lure his attractive ex-wife away from her black lover and reunite with her. At first the trio are quite good at keeping up appearances, but as the evening progresses the pretence at politeness gives way to the expression of raw, undisguised emotions.

Boyd's racism is veiled, if thinly, by his frequent assertions that he considers all Americans equal and that he is glad that Claybrook, a Yale graduate, has benefited from affirmative action. Time and again, however, he insults his ex-wife's lover by unwittingly perpetuating racial stereotypes. Claybrook eventually releases his bottled-up anger when Boyd wrongly "accuses" him of breeding pit bulls and when he realizes that not even Debra understands him:

Shut up! Look, the pit bulldog is a macho breed, "black" macho breed, got it? That what we're talkin' about? Huh? Baaaad macho breed of killer dog so black men get a charge walkin' the streets with 'em on leashes, sexy feelin', get it?—they give the word, the fucker's gonna tear somebody apart. Real baaad. [...]

You want the sociology, okay, I'll provide the sociology, fucking-A right, the pit bull helps com-pen-sate for the male nigger in America being a dog himself but not a killer dog, no way, man, just a runty ole mongrel dog not worth shit. You got it, honey? Like havin' a big cock's s'post to com-pen-sate for not havin' nothin'—including, in fact, the cock. Now you got it, honey? (Scene 6)

After being accused in return by Claybrook of exploiting the poor people in developing countries by taking their photos and then selling them ("that Third World-victim shit you're peddling [...] Don't hand me that shit, whitey"), Boyd takes out a revolver and starts threatening his hosts. In the end he calms down again and leaves with his boxes.


* Review by Ben Brantley in "The New York Times" (March 17, 1994).

Read on

Love triangles

* Noel Coward: "Design for Living"
* Christopher Hampton: "Treats"
* George Bernard Shaw: "Candida"

Deterioration of a dinner party

* Edward Albee: "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"
* Mike Leigh: "Abigail's Party"
* Thomas Vinterberg: "Festen"

ee also

* Ménage à trois

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Black (disambiguation) — Black is both a color and scientifically speaking the absence of color.Black may also refer to: * Black people (classification) * Black (surname), various people named Black * Black in Chess terminology, the designation for the player who moves… …   Wikipedia

  • black theatre — In the U.S., a dramatic movement encompassing plays written by, for, and about blacks. The first known play by an American black was James Brown s King Shotaway (1823). After the Civil War, blacks began to perform in minstrel shows, and musicals… …   Universalium

  • Black Sox Scandal — Black Sox redirects here. For other uses, see Black Sox (disambiguation). The eight Chicago Black Sox …   Wikipedia

  • Black participation in college basketball — Black African Americans have been participating in United States college basketball for over a century.Introduction at Harvard13 years after basketball was invented, and after being exposed to the game over the summer at Harvard University, Coach …   Wikipedia

  • Black Holes and Revelations — Studio album by Muse Released …   Wikipedia

  • Black Comedy — is a one act play by British dramatist Peter Shaffer, first performed in 1965. The play is, suitably enough, a black comedy in which the effect loss of light would have on a group of people who all hold things from each other is explored; as such …   Wikipedia

  • Black history in Puerto Rico — initially began with the African freeman who arrived with the Spanish Conquistadors. The Spaniards enslaved the Tainos who were the native inhabitants of the island and many of them died as a result of the treatment that they had received. This… …   Wikipedia

  • Black Comedy/White Lies — Black Comedy is the stuff of which British sex comedies are made. It focuses on Brindsley Miller, an opportunistic young sculptor who is facing one of the most important evenings of his life, the night in which he is to meet both the tyrannical… …   Wikipedia

  • Black Canary — The Black Canary. Ed Benes, artist Publication information Publisher DC Comics …   Wikipedia

  • Black Drongo — Juvenile bird in Calcutta with some brown and white feathers. Note the white rictal spot at the base of the beak. Conservation status …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.