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Bringing Out the Dead

Katamu's latest play looks at the gut-busting side of funerals.


In spite of its downer of a premise, director Christopher Johnston insists that A Colored Funeral (which opens tonight at Karamu House) isn’t all that morose of a play. Its 20 scenes are tied together by death -- people die of AIDS, are murdered, and succumb to various diseases -- but “it’s a mix of comedy and drama,” says Johnston. “It’s celebrating life and what’s precious about it.”

Gregory S. Carr’s play looks at the different ways black people grieve. Scenes range from spare monologues to fast-moving set pieces. “There’s not a lot of character development in some of them,” says Johnston. “You’re just getting the message.” The challenge, he says, is juggling 20 different vignettes that vary in tone – from weepy melodrama to foot-tapping musical. “You’ve got to bring out as much as you can in 10 minutes,” he says. Johnston adds that despite its title, there are plenty of stories in A Colored Funeral that’ll have white people nodding in recognition too. “Death is universal,” he says. “We all celebrate it in similar ways.”
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: April 13. Continues through May 6

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