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Dennis A. Allen II Strikes Again With America’s Favorite Pastime

Race is one of those conversations that, as of recently, everyone seems to be having, yet so many people are trying to ignore. In the reading of Dennis A. Allen II‘s America’s Favorite Pastime that took place during The New Black Fest 2015, directed by Christopher Burris, he tackles not just race, but misogyny, spirituality, and the hypersexualization of the black body.

The play starts off with a white woman cracking a whip against the bare body of a black man, as he hangs in submission. From the top, we know we’re in for a very uncomfortable ride.

As the story unfolds we’re introduced to Manny and his girlfriend, Rebecca. Manny comes home, from Hampton University, for Thanksgiving. They’ve just made their relationship official and decide for Rebecca to finally meet Manny’s family. It’s taken them three years for this to happen. There’s one [logical] explanation for this… She’s white, he’s black.

dennis allen II

“His vision of people and his ability to convey the lives he sees them living is extraordinarily rare. He doesn’t create characters, he creates people.” Broadway Black about Dennis A. Allen | The Power Of Words


We meet the others: Jason, Manny’s best friend, he’s white; Bethany, Rebecca’s mom, she’s white; Nakiesha, Manny’s mom, she’s black; and Emmanuel, Manny’s dad, he’s black, and a public political figure – think Michael Eric Dyson. Sharing the characters race so blatantly may seem arbitrary, but when the show is centered around unpacking it, you realize how essential it is.

The concept of race, and so many others, created tension that Allen did a wonderful job of building and making the audience feel invested in. Two moments, in particular, really stood out.

1. When Jason comes in Manny’s home, unnoticed, as he often does, and surprises him by putting him in a chokehold. Manny says, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.” Jason let’s him go. They both laugh. Manny asks, “Too soon?” Jason replies, “Yeah…” They laugh again.

2. After Nakiesha overhears a conversation between Jason and Manny, where Jason comfortably calls Manny a ‘nigga’, Emmanuel and Jason have a conversation. We hear both sides as to why the word should not be used and why it’s okay to be used… by everyone.

Tension constantly escalated. It built to a climactic moment that revealed how the two families are connected – and how as much as we really want things to change, things very well may always stay the same.

The reading of America’s Favorite Pastime was presented by The New Black Fest and The Lark. Keep your eye on Dennis A. Allen II. He’s worth watching!

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