I’m less interested in the specific dramaturgical problems of Colman Domingo’s Dot as a play than I am in how it’s being received here at Humana.
This festival is a great place to eavesdrop. The aisles are wide, the lines out to the lobby are slow-moving, and once you’re in that lobby there are treats and coffee to dawdle over after many of the shows.
So I overhear that Dot is unorganized, too long, awkwardly structured and brings on a big new character very late in the game.
All of this is true enough, but mainly from the perspective, I think, of white suburban theater goers who know their ensemble dysfunctional family melodrama from sources like Humana or Steppenwolf or classic Wilder, O’Neil, etc.
Truth is, Dot is part of a rich, decades-old tradition of African-American stage dramas that have developed their own performancestors style. Direct addresses to the audience, repetitive routines, abrupt switches from comedy to tragedy, a sassy new character spouting one-liners just when you think the plot is winding down… That’s all de rigeur for this genre. Domingo’s main digression from the form is to add a couple of token white characters to broaden the play’s appeal.
A stronger point might be made that Dot is yet another overlong Humana drama about a family where everyone is too rude and self-absorbed to realize that their relatives have their own issues.
I didn’t particularly like Dot. I’ve seen things like it that are better: more focused, more lyrical, less self-aware. Dot has a long, unnecessary, self-serving diatribe about how black playwrights are given short shrift by the American regional theater network. Again, that may well be the case, but it would be delusional to think that Dot doesn’t have problems of its own making.