By Michael Donelan, E23 Reporter

“The Green Duck Lounge” is a stunning and honest portrayal of how racism has stayed the same in the U.S. throughout its history. It also highlights societal flaws that are seen so often in the wake of tragedy.

The Green Duck Lounge is a real place. In Kansas City, Missouri, there sits the Green Duck Lounge, a bar that has seen its fair share of history, both good and bad. Told in two different decades, the play follows patrons of the Lounge as they discuss various topics, such as being proud of one’s identity, police brutality and black history in the area. The different decades (the first act is in 2015 and the second act takes place in the late 1970s) show how history repeats itself and how the U.S. has failed to learn from its mistakes. The actors portray different people that one may have encountered in each decade, such as a Black Lives Matter activist, a member of the Black Panther movement or a white police officer investigating a killing in the present day.

Playwright and MU alumna Michelle Tyrene Johnson has created a very honest look into the lives of black people in America. “The Green Duck Lounge” is structured in three acts. The first two are the actual show, and the third act is a discussion with Johnson, actors in the show and MU professors. The discussion really cements the various concepts that Johnson hopes the audience takes away from the play, and it encourages further discussion outside the walls of the theater. Racism is still a real issue today, and Johnson shows the toll that it takes on people, especially in moments of tragedy, such as the shooting of unarmed black men. Hearing the personal stories and insights into the writing of the play made it a unique and extremely impactful experience.

The narrative’s two-decade structure is both interesting and compelling, as many of the issues that should have never existed are still harming people today. One of the characters in the play, Bailey, does not age. She has been around for a while and tells the audience about what she has seen take place within and outside the walls of the Green Duck Lounge. Each act involves an instance of a black man being killed and showcases what society is like either before or as a result of these killings. I found it interesting how Johnson made sure to include the viewpoints of young and old black people, as the older view sometimes conflicts with the younger view. Johnson shows how one’s life experiences can affect their viewpoint, and her writing really makes the viewer think about why someone may have their opinion.

“The Green Duck Lounge” is a unique and impactful theater experience, and as a result, people will see how far our country still needs to come.

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