LUNA RAY FILMS & EVIDENCE ROOM
INSIDE THE CREOLE MAFIA
created and performed by
Mark Broyard and Roger Guenveur Smith
Scenic Designer – Travis Hammer
Lighting Designer – Michael Gend
Stage Manager – Tracey McAvoy
Producer – Steven Adams and Bart DeLorenzo
February 4 – April 2, 2006
It’s Mardi Gras. Mark Broyard and Roger Guenveur Smith return with a "post-Katrina" version of their performance piece that’s been trotted about the country since the early ’90s. It received an L.A. Weekly Theater Award in 1993, and also earned Broyard and Smith the keys to New Orleans. They play on and around Travis Hammer’s cluttered Creole shrine, with fine-tooth combs suspended in the air as an open taunt to anyone with hair too thick to pass through those teeth, which are a stand-in for the gates of Heaven. This is a show ostensibly about being in the "club," a buoyant standup/sketch-comedy routine in which women are hauled onto the stage to dance to "When the Saints Come Marching In," with these clowns in white suits and silk shirts, and the audience is grilled on their knowledge of Creole terms. So what is an octoroon? Shame on you for not knowing. Broyard plays straight man to Smith’s vain, grinning neurotic who in a sketch called "Creoles Anonymous" plays the sponsor (God help us). The sponsor undergoes a complete meltdown over obsessions with his hair, the shape of his buttocks, his genitals. In this mocking homage to ethnic pride, the clouds of Hurricane Katrina billow and build on screens behind the vaudeville, threatening to blow away not only a city, but an entire era of identity politics. This show may look and sound like San Francisco Mime Troupe street theater, but the weather, and those photos, have transformed it into a variation on Chekhov.
– Steven Leigh Morris
Los Angeles Times
Inside the Creole Mafia, now at the Evidence Room, is both a celebration of all things Creole and an indictment of all things Creole.
If that sounds a bit confusing, it’s because it is. Creators-performers Mark Broyard and Roger Guenveur Smith never quite nail down exactly what message they are trying to get across in this post-Katrina homage to the suffering city of New Orleans. However, these New Orleans natives are such charming, funny hosts that we relish time spent in their company.
Broyard is a compact, cerebral man who makes his points with an impressive economy of gesture. Smith is more commodious and expansive, both in person and personality. In combination, the two are a formidable comedic duo whose fast, overlapping patter never falters.
Clad in dapper white suits, they enter to "When the Saints Go Marching In." Be warned: Audience members in the first rows will likely be pulled onstage to join in the dance.
From there, Broyard and Smith segue into a hilarious mini-lecture on Creole terminology, with emphasis on such words as "octoroon" and "mulatto." Light-skinned black men, they make a point of checking their own complexions against a brown paper bag, mock-anxiously evaluating whether they pass this "color test."
Although their ultimate point is a little blurry, the two repeatedly emphasize the role of racial politics within the moneyed, aristocratic Creole community and the particular role that those politics played in the recent disaster. Of course, considering the massive scale of the tragedy, the show ends on a poignant note. Mostly, though, it is delightfully raucous. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the general hilarity is in any way irreverent or inappropriate. On the contrary, Mafia is a savory stew that makes us appreciate the richness and diversity of a city in danger of disappearing. – F. Kathleen Foley