Black playwright Ed Bullins has decided his own and his peers' work as "attempting to answer questions concerning black survival and future . . . the dialetic of change . . . and the dialetic of experience." By writing for black audiences only, he achieves, to a white observer, the quality of an impressive, honest reporter.
His 1971 work, "The Fabulous Miss Marie," was written, as most of his plays have been, for Harlem's New Lafayette Theater. Now, in an expressive staging by Patricia Petretti, it is being acted at the Back Alley Theater Thursday through Sunday nights at 8 at 1365 Kennedy St. NW.
Marie and her friends have risen above "street" existence, and that's how Marie wants it. Husband Bill can slip around some, even in a white woman's direction, but Marie reminds his white, Jewish boss that there's a lot owed to Marie, including a raise for Bill, not a firing. Sex, dope and booze are Marie's pleasure and those of her male and female pals. Bullins observes that none of them are freighted with kids.
The play is a statement about a condition and Bullins expresses no character judgement. An actor once remarked of Bullins' work. "This guy does not just pick up a pen and write. He has lived his work." The result is that one believes the characters are as he presents them and, at the same time, one does not judge them either.
Marie is the strongest of the 10 characters having a four-day Christmas party in the house she and Bill rent in Los Angeles. She has known what she wants and has seen to it that she will keep what she has gotten. Bullins uses a stop-action technique to have the characters take the spotlight and confide their pasts and dreams to the audience. Though he has written in scorn about white, European traditions, this form is not so novel as he boasts. He uses it capably.
Jane Osmann's design for the Back Alley's awkward acting area is well contrived and, apart from movie sequences that have little to project upon, the atmosphere is convincing. Petretti's cast, headed by M'Lafi as Marie, achieves fine ensemble effect, with Raymond J. Green, as Bill, Fred Strother and William C. Godsey especially able. Back Alley has served Bullins well.