Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

Black Virgins Are Not for Hipsters
The Marsh

Also see Eddie's review of Arcadia, Patrick's review of Jarrod Spector: A Little Help from My Friends, and Richard's review of Detroit

Echo Brown
In one hour from now, 23-year-old African-American Echo Brown is going to lose her virginity to a white hipster she met on Craigslist. As the minutes tick down to that highly anticipated event, we become audience to the many musings, doubts, and dreams of her mind's inner conversations. Developed by the performer herself in collaboration with David Ford, Black Virgins Are Not for Hipsters provides Echo Brown an avenue to tell not only her own story, but also that of the contemporary black woman in America. Along the way, this one-woman production at The Marsh lures us in with funny stories and interesting characters; and once we are fully engaged, it then shatters many of our preconceptions and stereotypes that both whites and blacks have about women of color.

Echo has too long carried the voice of her Cleveland mother warning her, "Leave these mens (sic) alone ... You don't need nobody 'cept yourself and God." Being dark-skinned and with African facial features, she also has created an image of herself as ugly when compared to many of her lighter-skinned, European-featured friends. These two factors have led to little dating and absolutely no sex, and at twenty-three, she is determined to change that, for better or worse. She has found her potential soul mate and deflowerer in Ryan, the Craigslist guy who has turned out to be a "lumberjack version of Ben Affleck," complete with hipster beard and plaid shirt and in total adoration of her inner and outer beauty. Now, he is coming for the first time to visit her (after taking one month finally to kiss her), and she is hoping it is for more than "just another game of Parcheesi," which has evidently too often been the result of previous guys coming to her Brooklyn apartment.

As she, and we wait, for the knock on the door, Echo weaves the quilt of her life. First come the funny renditions of Mama, gossipy conversations with her best friend Amy, and re-enactment of a party of hipsters planning a Burning Man bicycle that makes coffee. Ms. Brown giggles, talks to us as girlfriends, and mimics others' voices with abound. We get a glimpse of what it was like for her, a recent Dartmouth graduate now police investigator, to confront one of NYPD's finest who is accused of unnecessary roughness as she convincingly and comically becomes the belligerent white cop himself. We even get to prove real-time her belief that "Dancing is the only place where racial stereotyping is OK."

But as the minutes pass, Echo's stories begin to touch on more serious experiences and subjects. Voices in her head recall insults thrown at her by boys on the street and on the phone. Images of a felon brother in front of an all-white parole board or of a childhood trauma almost too painful to remember come to life through Ms. Brown's heart-gripping stories of her life. Her petite, stunningly beautiful body and her perky, musical voice transform and transcend as needed to convince us of each tale's authenticity.

By the end, when the knock at the door finally is heard, we have been touched to the core and have confronted our own preconceptions of what it must be like to be black, female, intelligent, successful, and American all at the same time. We have laughed, hooted, sighed, and even cried; and we go home a little wiser than we came.

Black Virgins Are Not for Hipsters has just been extended until September 12, 2015, at The Marsh, 1062 Valencia, San Francisco, Thursdays at 8 p.m. and Saturdays at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are available or by calling 415-282-3055, Monday - Friday, 1 - 4 p.m.

Black Virgins Are Not for Hipsters was written by Echo Brown, developed with David Ford, and directed by Scott Plate.

Photo: Alexis Keenan

Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Eddie Reynolds