Go back to African-America!
The Shipment is a hilarious and revealing variety show, probing the blister of race relations through multiple theatrical constructs: a stand-up comedy act, a song and dance number, a cartoonish rags-to-riches story and a naturalistic drawing room number with an uncomfortable punch-line.
The opening act, a dance duo, sets up Lee’s double-barreled tactic (and dilemma). Dancer 1 (Christopher Piper – above) is happily hoofing it through Semisonic’s “F. N. T”, while Dancer 2 (Ace Anderson) stands apart, clearly appalled by his partner’s blackface performance. Eventually, #2 can’t escape joining in — either because he’s determined to top #1 or he just gets caught up in the physical joy of it. Lanky-and-nervous-limbed, Anderson is a goggle-eyed head bobbing on a stick — the perfect, Mutt-and-Jeff foil for the chunkier, vigorous Piper.
Lee frequently examines questions of racial identify in her plays. This time around, instead of Asian-American characters, she has filled her stage with young African-Americans. Her structure is loose and unusual — a potentially shocking flirtation with old-time, racist minstrel shows.