Christine Chatine’s new play, He’s My Husband. No! He’s My Man, has been called funny, emotional, and even epic. At a time in which the themes of hope and change are at the forefront of African-American thought, the tale of two women trapped on opposite sides of an indolent no-good will allow you to believe in the power of faith, karma and love and redemption.
For the record, Chatine’s precarious approach to the question of love and the power of love is not new, not fresh, and offers no organic treatment of what we all have come to know as typical in war between men and women: to be faithful…or not to be faithful; to love a cheating man…or leave a cheating man. But the mark of a true writer (and director) is the method and skill and strategies employed to take us to a whole new level of insight, examination and interrogation. So, then…the question is whether or not Chatine’s play brings any new insight to the age-old discussion on love and fidelity and consequences.
Chatine’s treatment does not go deep enough to elevate what is ultimately a general story we’ve already seen, penultimately unexcavated and finally unexplored, lost and stranded amidst the more amplified stereotypes of slick-talking mamas, neck-jerking hussies and bad-boy antics. Much more could’ve been achieved with deeper spiritual wrestling on issues she raises (to one level…but abandoned at the next). At one point in the play the lead character loses faith and hurls a bible across the room – a turning point which could’ve anchored her play squarely on the issue of faith hence the question of god. But He’s My Husband. No! He’s My Man has no guts (and no balls), preferring instead to play it safe and cool: to not rabble-rouse her holy constituency – her potentially guiding light fractured and blurred by the pretentious smudge of glib assumptions steered out of control: her creativity crashed at Hope Highway, undermined at Critical Junction, scope-less near Focus Ferry – a thematic swerve at Plot Place – crashing head-on at Stereotype Station – her ambitious cast (and characters) left strewn about, hopelessly stranded off Possibility Peak, broken and disillusioned like Wiesel at Buchenwald; silent like dolorous ventriloquist dummies with no viable direction…waiting like Vladimir and Estragon for Godot (who never comes)…motionless like Pinocchio with no Geppetto.
However, the acting was good and the performances rank respectfully between good and fair (if we believe that Chatine’s characterizations of black love and life are plausible). Detroit actor Rodney Story played a convincing (typecast) Carl, a womanizing leech and playa-wannabe who cheats on his faithful god-fearing wife, Nila (Chiquetta Bunts). Chanae Jordan plays a voluble and feisty Karma – thus the story unfolds upon a hot-bedded backdrop of lust, envy, and jealousy replete with sinful inhibitions. Supporting cast-mates – Stephone Terrell, Christiana Chatine, Pepper Holton – mother of slain Detroit rapper Proof of D-12 – Nedra Spencer, Chayil Chandra, Edward Dunbar, Ayriel LaTauja, Nakaya Thompson and Andreana Beard – all work hard to rescue Chatine’s tenuous “dramady” from the frothy beach-front rim-bank of fuzzy desolation.
Langston Hughes once said that “We know we are beautiful. And ugly too…” But there simply isn’t much more to say or do with any particular black story which only seeks to affirm, confirm, and facilitate the glory of God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost, to situate its examination of the human spirit in religious terms. Perhaps we are so much more than that, and our possibilities for self-examination must first start with the courage to confront and question (like Baldwin in The Fire Next Time); render new possibilities for self-determination and self-sacrifice (like Benedict Mady Copeland in Carson McCullers’ The Heart is a Lonely Hunter); to imagine. Chatine’s play was good inasmuch as what it set out to do. But its imaginative elements never really reached its full potential.