Rust

Story of racist product mascots of the past is a one-note affair

Thank God there's a poster at intermission explaining all these bizarre characters popping out of walls, getting wheelchaired by, and calling incessantly on the phone, or else the second half of this play would be as enigmatic and confusing as the first. Playwright Kirsten Greenidge brings the racist and "politically problematic" product mascots from the early 1900s (Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben, and Farina, the pigtailed pickaninny from the Little Rascals named after the cereal) into modern-day context. The play attempts, and stumbles, at showing that this shameful racism is still present (she chooses professional football to illustrate her point). The old "mascots" keep appearing or calling on the phone, reminding modern characters to "have a voice" and strive for "respect" and other vague aphorisms. The problem is that this potentially charged discussion doesn't deepen and remains a one-noted and somewhat cryptic plea. It doesn't help the matter that in some scenes the acting relies more on yelling rather than actual acting. Greenidge has chosen a rich and multilayered subject, but in the end she is over-ambitious and her writing can only scratch the surface. Nathaniel Eaton

Details

Through April 1 at the Magic Theatre, Fort Mason Center, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Tickets are $20-45; call 441-8822 or visit www.magictheatre.org.

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