|One of many protest marches|
Don’t Bother Me; I Can’t Cope is being presented at the New Freedom Theatre 1346 N. Broad Street through July 30, 2016. First performed in Washington D.C. in 1971 and on Broadway a year later, it will enjoy an off-Broadway revival next year. This particular production is set in North Philadelphia and the various cast members, on a minimalistic set reminiscent of a demolition site, can’t cope with a neighborhood school being torn down in their gentrified neighborhood. Temple University is planning to tear down the local William Penn High School and use the land for an athletic field. The show opens with Tamara Anderson, dressed as homeless person, belting out ”I Gotta Keep Movin’ “ accompanied by 4 extremely talented dancers who dance to the African beat of a synthesizer. The seven other members of the cast enter carrying protest signs and take turns with small solo parts. The show is comprised of over 20 individual songs, some of which are reprised in the second act. There are a variety of flavors to the music including gospel, jazz, funk, soul, calypso and soft rock. There are also dance accompaniments for all of them. This is one talented cast! When Nicole Stacie sings “So Little Time” she is so lost in the lyrics that tears just roll down her face as she belts out each line. One song, “Time brings About Change,” must be newly added to this rendition. The song mentions President Barack Obama and then lists many of black lives lost in the last few years such as Treyvon Martin. As each name is called out, it is followed by the sound of gunfire. The number ends with everyone walking off the stage shouting Black Lives Matter. Every few songs end with cast members exiting the stage and shouting another slogan such as Philly’s Not For Sale or Stop Temple. The show is not only entertaining; it is gut-wrenching as well. In one piece, 6 men line up and repeat in unison and then separately, “I am my own cause and my own effect”. After the final one speaks there is the sound of gunshots and they all fall to a blackout. They then rise one at a time for a solo piece before exiting the stage chanting "Black Lives Matter." The second act is a little more upbeat but displays just as much talent. At one point when the entire cast is dancing in the “Don’t Bother Me I Can’t Cope” reprise you can actually feel the floor vibrate. It feels as if the Broad Street Subway is rumbling right underneath the stage. For tickets to this enlightening and very well performed show, call the box office at 888-802-8998 or view details and order online at www.freedomtheatre.org.