March 18, 2010

Tales of an Urban Indian reviewed

Tales of an Urban Indian Theater Review

By Roscoe PondTales of an Urban Indian surrounds the life of Simon Douglas who from the very start is ashamed to be who he is. Right off the top we see all too familiar stereotypical Indian images that society has perpetuated for years. Simon makes fun of those images and explains away that he really doesn't know what he is. Even at the beginning of his existence. Only that he is an urban Indian boy who must be civilized after a church baptism while performing a song and dance number into boarding school.

Simon's life isn't an easy one as he moves from the Indian reservation to the city, to skid row and back again. All along the way he runs into funny, sad and enticing characters in his life excursion. They come alive and there are 40 of them in this one-man show. I counted more, but who cares? They all jump out at you as Simon runs to all corners of the stage with energy and gusto.
‘Tales of an Urban Indian’ at Native Voices at the Autry

By Penny OrloffThe play begins with stock “Indian” images projected across the back of the stage: the noble savage, the idealized Indian maiden, good ol’ Tonto, the contented Land O’ Lakes squaw, the freakish cartoon Cleveland Indians logo…. Dennis enters silently and stands observing these pictures–and the large, mostly Native audience erupts in huge laughs.

For the next 90 minutes, the charismatic Dennis is a cast of dozens as he tracks the strange, twisting path of his protagonist from carefree childhood on the reservation to drug addiction and alcoholism on skid row. From the outset, his tales of his character’s early life give us the rhythm and refrains of the rest of the show. One of the funniest vignettes is his “talking hands” rendition of “an eagle ate my homework”; one of the darkest is of his complicity in the suicide of a close boyhood friend.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Native Plays and Other Stage Shows.

Below:  "Darrell Dennis performs Tales of an Urban Indian at Native Voices at the Autry." (Tony Dontscheff for Silvia Mautner Photography)

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