The Colored Museum by George C. Wolfe
by Cam N. Coulter
Posted on June 15, 2016 reading
New York: Grove Press, 1988. The Colored Museum premiered in 1986.
The Colored Museum is an 80’s satire about race. It’s composed of a series of vignettes which each uses stereotypes, archetypes, and hyperbole to make a play which pointedly, insightfully, and uncomfortably examines race in America. In 2016, the play’s cultural references feel quite dated, but there’s something indelibly enjoyable about how 80’s this play can feel.
It’s a good play. It’s funny, insightful, short; the themes of the vignettes are varied but also interrelate well.
Plays always lose something when you read them instead of watch them, and this play loses more than most. Unlike a Realist, chronological play, there isn’t a narrative to pull you into the play as a whole. Each vignette needs to grab your attention on its own, which most of them do very well. However, I can’t help but think that I’d love to see this play performed live some day. Like the best satire, The Colored Museum makes you laugh while feeling awkward and uncomfortable, and both humor and awkwardness are really enhanced while in a live audience.