Here’s a bit of theater trivia: Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope was the first Broadway play ever to be directed by an African-American woman. The year was 1972, and the director was Vinnette Carroll. Written and composed by Micki Grant, the musical won prestigious awards in theater as well as several Tony Award nominations, yet it’s little remembered today. Perhaps that’s because its references to wage freezes and Richard Daley and the war in Vietnam are trapped-in-amber snapshots of the time that produced it. Nevertheless, it also reflects the ferment of social activism going on in the black community across America. Feminism, poor living conditions, and police brutality are issues that haven’t gone away in the 40-plus years since this show debuted, and so Jubilee Theatre is reviving it this week.
Reflecting the different strains of thought floating around black America in the 1970s, the show’s songs are a hodgepodge of musical styles, from the gospel-flavored opening number, “I Gotta Keep Movin’,” to the James Brown-style R&B of “All I Need” to the militant march of “They Keep Comin’,” which reminds us that the African-American community continues to make progress despite everyone standing in its way. It will be fascinating to see how this show resonates in the Obama era.
Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope runs Fri-May 3 at Jubilee Theatre, 506 Main St, FW. Tickets are $18-22. Call 817-338-4411.