Black Light Review: Jomama Jones Makes It Alright

It’s hard to know what to call “Black Light.” It’s an entertainment for certain. It’s also an act of healing and an act of warning in these turbulent times. It begins:

What if I told you it’s going to be alright?
What if I told you not yet?
…What if I told you you are not alone?

“Black Light”  comes close to a cabaret show, since audience members can drink and dine at Joe’s Pub, while the headliner, Jomama Jones, sings a dozen original songs accompanied by a jazz-suited band and sequined backup singers, and tells stories about her life.

There is a hilarious story about the time she fought with a classmate over a poster of Prince, circling and claiming various parts of him with a marker, until the teacher confiscated the poster indignantly: “You carved him up as the Europeans did Africa – greed as your only motivation and no regard for the native.”

There is a moving one about her Aunt Cleotha down South who stayed up on the porch at night with a shotgun by her side.

But unlike the typical cabaret show, the headliner of “Black Light” is a fictional character, Jomama Jones, portrayed by Daniel Alexander Jones.

“Black Light” is not a drag act, not really, although Jones as Jomama changes into one glamorous gown after another over the show’s 90 minutes. The character even engages in several diva moments, such as a Diana Ross “Reach Out And Touch”-like  musical number, “Supernova,” during which audience members are asked to hold hands with a stranger.

Try to remember
Your very first touch
The sweetness of fingers
And arms intertwining

But, despite the drag jokiness of the name, Jomama Jones is a thought-out, fleshed-out character, without a scintilla of self-parody or camp. (Jones prefers to think of Jomama as his alter-ego.)

It’s hard to call “Black Light” a full-fledged theater piece, since there’s no plot or “arc,” but it is scripted and it does, in its own way, tell a story. Nor is it a political show, though the political viewpoint is clear enough  (“these so-called United States of America.”) Nor is it strictly speaking an African-American show, but it is guided by the character’s and creator’s experience of being black. It is surely not a show about astronomy, but it turns astronomic phenomena – super novas, black holes — into metaphors for life and society. Black light lets us see light in the darkness.

“Black Light”
Joe’s Pub
Created by Daniel Alexander Jones
Original Songs by Jomama Jones, Laura Jean Anderson, Bobby Halvorson, Dylan Meek, and Josh Quat

Piano and vocals by Tarig Al-Sabir, drums by Sean Dix, Vocals by Trevor Bachman and Vuyo Sotashe, bass by Michelle Marie Osbourne, keyboard and vocals by Samora Abayomi Pinderhughes, guitar and vocals by Josh Quat.
Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission
Tickets: $45 plus drink minimum
Through March 25


Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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