By The Way, Meet Vera Stark is a comedic, yet deep body of work by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage. The play unfolds the journey of Vera Stark who works as a maid but is trying to break into the Hollywood scene at a time when speaking roles for African American actors were almost unheard of. We’re able to experience a glimpse into a 70 year journey of Vera’s life, on this journey we see her personal struggles with success and self discovery.
I appreciated Lynn Nottage for shining light on the racial stereotypes in 1930â€™s Hollywood, in today’s world that exists with so much cultural diversity it’s ALMOST easy to forget how far society has come. Vera Starks not only had to combat the obstacle of being a woman, but she also carried the heavy load of being a black woman in a time where even if she were to be cast all she would get is the role of a slave or something equally subservient.
In the play we’re able to witness a quizzical relationship between Vera Stark and her boss Gloria Mitchell, who is a Hollywood star also fighting to stay relevant in the scene. Their relationship dynamic is very familiar but even till the end the true nature of how well they know each other is left to our imagination. We also get to meet Vera’s sister, who shows us a struggle that black women still face now… how far will one assimilate or emulate to blend into society and get ahead?
With that said, while “By The Way, Meet Vera Stark” touches on a lot of deep subjects, it’s also a very hearty comedy. I found myself laughing through most of it. The actors did a wonderful job portraying their respective characters and the stage transitions were a sight to see.
With the good, sometimes must come the bad. While I enjoyed most of the play, I didn’t like how disjointed it felt from the 1st half to the 2nd half. The 2nd half of the play takes you into the future for an examination of Vera as an actress and how she felt about her ground breaking role. While I appreciated the artistic twist, I felt like it took the play in a direction that was somewhat unnecessary or just not well executed.
As a black woman, I also feel that although it’s necessary to remember the struggles of where we came from, I would like for us to take a more positive approach to how we are portrayed and where we go in the future. With that said, I would still recommend checking it out and seeing this play with a few friends. It’s sure to spark up some good conversations and provoke a lot of thought.
Your Life After 25 Gives “By The Way, Meet Vera Stark” 6/10
Tickets start at $30 and are available at The Woodruff Arts Center Box Office in person or by calling 404-733-5000.