It’s a little strange to review something like Native Man The Musical, because it’s largely composed of the personal narratives of real people, in almost every case presented by the people themselves. So it seems weird to assign a rating to someone else’s personal story. It’s the reason I waffled between just giving Native Man The Musical a straight-up 5 star rating versus a 4.5. Just the fact that something like Native Man The Musical exists is compelling enough a reason to go. How often do we get actual stories of the Native American community, performed by Native actors? Sadly, almost never. New Native Theater is trying to change that. And the Fringe is the perfect place to start pulling those narratives into shape, working them in front of an audience. But this review isn’t saying “Go because you should.” I can honestly say go because it’s compelling and entertaining theater.
The cast of six Native American male actors perform a series of scenes, confessionals, and songs, interspersed with video sequences – interviews with these six performers as well as other members of the Native community, across the age spectrum. There are representatives here from the Cheyenne, Dakota, Kuna and Ojibwe nations. There’s frank talk of racism and substance abuse, but there’s also a lot of humor. There’s also a subset of humor where I kept thinking, “Wait, am I allowed to laugh at that?” But the performers clearly want to encourage dialogue and community, among themselves as well as the spectators. They’re not here to berate an audience that wants to be part of the solution, but to get any progress, there also has to be honest discussion of how we all got here. There are sports T-shirts with mascots for the Caucasians, folk songs and rap songs, tales of love, fatherhood, and recovery. It’s a pretty wide-ranging discussion, and it’s only scratching the surface. I’m looking forward to more.
4.5 stars – Very Highly Recommended