REVIEW: Encores! Off-Center’s “Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope”
New York City Center completes this summer’s Encores! Off-Center series of 5 performance concert revivals of rarely seen Off-Broadway musicals with a presentation of “Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope”, composer/lyricist Micki Grant’s incisive 1971 musical revue about black life in America. “Time brings about a change, time will bring a change about”, sing the 13 member, all-black ensemble nearly two-thirds of the way through the 75 exuberant minutes of this song cycle, and you are struck by how much has changed since Ms. Grant, now 77, wrote those words, and how much is still the same.
Director/Choreographer Savion Glover, himself a preeminent theatrical diarist of the black experience (“Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk”, “Shuffle Along”), shepherds this concert mounting, infusing it with an ebullient and percussive energy that captures the spirit of the black power movement of the 1960s and 1970s and traces it to the present. The sentiment behind “My Name is Man” is the same heartbreaking message that inspires “Black Lives Matter”, and the title song teaches a lesson about white privilege that many still need to learn.
Each song illuminates a different slice of black life, from home to church, workplace to dance hall, traversing a wide variety of musical styles including jazz, funk, soul, rock, calypso, and gospel. What is most striking is Ms. Grant’s prescience in tackling subjects like the gender wage gap and phenomenon of white flight. Hers was as important and revolutionary a voice in the theatre in 1971 as it is today, hoping still that “time will bring a change about”.
“Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope”
New York City Center
131 West 55th Street
New York, NY 10019
Running Time: 75 minutes (no intermission)
Thursday, July 26th at 7:30PM
Friday, July 27th at 8PM
Saturday, July 28th at 2PM and 8PM