Consider this improbable yet entertaining question: what comedies would Neil Simon write if he was a new black lesbian playwright emerging today? Written by Aziza Barnes, BLKS is about women in their twenties going about everyday life. They are black. Some straight, some gay. They go to work. They have relationships in various states of disrepair. They go to the clubs. They are dreaming and searching and dealing. And one of them is undergoing a “pussy apocalypse.” Some of this absurdity is laugh out loud funny.
The aforementioned disaster opens the play when one of our characters discovers she has a mole on her clitoris. I do not lie. A friend who lives with her declares, “when you find a mole on your clit, it’s definitely a day drinking day.” The bottle appears and situation comedy via Brooklyn ensues. Another friend soon appears to join them as she’s also having a bad day. Turns out she discovered her boyfriend has been cheating with a woman who drinks red wine with her Popeye’s fried chicken. We are in the land of big, broad comedy used as therapy to laugh through life’s misadventures.
Of course the play has its more serious moments and they feel a bit contrived. Too much happens over the course of one night and the messaging moments can feel heavy handed. Suspending disbelief, which is what we normally do with situation comedies, is the way to go. The cast here is excellent. The opening scene of Act II between our smart gal June (Leea Ayers), her new suitor from the club, Justin (Namir Smallwood) and her medically traumatized roommate (Nora Carroll) is the definition of farce. I have never been to Steppenwolf before but I’ve seen their work and their troupe on the New York stage. BLKS was my pick while I was visiting Chicago. Funny stuff from a great new voice.