Echo Brown is in-your-face like your best friend on a good night. Catching her might be one of the most important things on the Bay Area theatre calendar.
She’s incredibly bright, and funny, and sharp and embodies a dynamo of energy that beams out in a punctuated rhythm of self-irony, but most of all she is so deafeningly real, your brain will be bouncing like a ping-pong ball.
Black Virgins Are Not for Hipsters tops anything I’ve seen this year.
She’ll confirm what black girlfriends say about how much easier it is to be a black woman in Europe, and a 1,001 other things that don’t get heard, despite this perpetual conversation about race we always seem to be having.
When she talks about how racist the Bay Area is, compared to NYC or Cleveland, her observation seems perfectly aligned with the Bay Area’s glacial coolness and assumed superiority that goes with occupying this stunning bit of heaven, you start to wonder if the two are intertwined. “Voting for Bernie Sanders doesn’t make you less of a racist,” she posits.
However, I’m getting ahead of myself here. Echo Brown’s one-woman show Black Virgins Are Not for Hipsters first opened at the San Francisco Marsh back in April 2015, drawing rave reviews. After multiple extensions, it’s currently at the Berkeley Marsh through April 23.
To call this story of a tender-sweet Craigslist hookup a critique of hipster culture, that culture of privilege told in a false narrative of poverty, makes it sound lamely tedious. Brown is a funny, funny performer, riffing off everything from flannel-shirted lumber-sexuals to corporate whores and tech startups.
However, something else is afoot. Brown works her audience, gathering the energy and focusing it before bringing it down with stories like the one of her brother’s parol hearing that had many in the audience in tears. You’ll want to linger after, to decompress while she tells you a bit about the work, developed out of a class with the Marsh’s David Ford.
Black Virgins Are Not for Hipsters tops anything I’ve seen this year so far. You’ll feel a little more connected to the universe after seeing this and even maybe a little less alone.
Photo Credit: Alexis Keenan