"Straight White Men," a new play on Broadway, has an unusual way of opening: it plays rap music so loudly that the audience can barely hear themselves think, then has two transgender people hector the paying crowd about white privilege.
Reviewer Jonathan Mandell sets the scene:
During a pre-show featuring obnoxiously loud recorded music by female rappers with sexually explicit lyrics, two characters greet theatergoers in their seats, and ask them what they think of the music. If they reply that it’s too loud, they give them ear plugs. As the show begins, the two get up on the stage of the Hayes Theater, in front of a curtain made of cheap iridescent mylar strips more suitable for a disco. They introduce themselves, using their real names, Ty Dafoe and Kate Bornstein, and actual identities.
Dafoe: “I’m from the Oneida and the Ojibwe nations. My gender identity is Niizhi Manitouwug, which means ‘transcending gender’ in the Ojibwe language.”
Bornstein: “Me, I’m a Jew from the Jersey shore. And I’m what’s called ‘non-binary,’ which means ‘not man/not woman’ in the English language.”
Unnecessarily, and thus humorously, Bornstein says: “In case you were wondering, neither of us is a straight white man.”
The loud music, they imply, was deliberately intended to make at least some of the audience uncomfortable. “Kate and I are well aware that it can be upsetting when people create an environment that doesn’t take your needs into account,” Dafoe says, his pointed comment eliciting laughter and applause.
See, playwright Young Jean Lee wants the audience to feel uncomfortable the way minorities do around white people!
The play, by Young Jean Lee, stars Armie Hammer, Josh Charles and Paul Schneider as three brothers coming to grips with their supposed "white privilege." The boys' late mother was woke, inventing a game called Privilege in which they could learn how not to take advantage of their status as straight white men. Have they succeeded? You have to sit through some earsplitting rap and liberal sermonizing to fnd out.
One can only imagine the fallout if a straight white playwright (are there any?) had written a play about, say, "Small Gay Asians" and blasted Pat Boone songs to annoy the audience.
Reviewer Christopher Kelly summed up SWM this way: "The show talks itself in (mostly tedious) circles, around questions of identity, maleness, societal expectations, and so forth -- eventually coming to feel more like a graduate school seminar than a plausible drama."