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N*gger Wetb*ck Ch*nk: The Race Show, which The Carolina Theatre of Durham, NC presented March 31st as part of its new Pathways to Understanding Series, has the most eyebrow-raising title since The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler. Less of a consciousness-raising exercise and more of a no-holds-barred comedy routine, N*gger Wetb*ck Ch*nk nevertheless has an important and timely message for ethnically polarized fellow Americans: The only race that matters is the Human Race.
Miles Gregory, Rafael “Rafa” Agustin, and Allan Axibal—the self-proclaimed “Nigger,” “Wetback,” and “Chink” of the expurgated title—know that sticks and stones can break their bones and words—especially hateful words, such as these three all-too-common racial epithets—can hurt just as much. So, they boldly use N*gger Wetb*ck Ch*nk —and painful memories from their own coming-of-age stories—to attack stereotypes.
Messrs. Gregory, Agustin, and Axibal make splashy entrances dressed as a fur-coat-wearing Pimp with a flashy feathered chapeau, a yellow-do-rag-wearing Gangbanger in a wife-beater T-shirt and jeans, and a headband-wearing Martial Artist in karate clothes, respectively, while they repeat the inflammatory words of the title over and over again. Afterwards, in a series of comic and sometimes poignant monologues and brief bits of sketch comedy, these three charismatic comedians vividly illustrate what it is like to grow up a child of color in late 20th century America. Moreover, as they exorcised their own personal demons, they educated The Carolina Theatre audience, which rewarded their edgy R-rated comedy with an exuberant standing ovation.
Miles Gregory, who says he doesn’t hail from Compton, munch watermelon every chance he gets, or drive a pimped-out 87 Caddy, grew up as a middle-class, George Michael idolizing California kid in a predominantly white suburb. (“I was a chocolate dream wrapped in a rainbow,” he says.) It wasn’t until his mother moved him to Atlanta that he started hearing that word that “starts with an N and ends with an Igger” with alarming frequency. The colossal culture clash was hilarious—“You can take a dude out of the Valley, but you can’t take the Valley out of the dude”—and the reenactment of an awkward reading of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn in Mr. Hall’s seventh-grade English class provides some of the show’s funniest moments.
Rafa Agustin, who does not call East L.A. home, gorge on beans morning, noon, and night, or tool around town in a lowrider (he rides the bus), is a native of Ecuador, not Mexico. Some of his funniest and most poignant moments came during his reminiscences of the summer he changed his name to Ralph August, and tried to camouflage his Latino roots, while trying to win a drama competition. Agustin got another big laugh when he told Allan Axibal, “People look at you and think you’ll fix their computer, instead of steal it.”
Allan Axibal, who hails from the Philippines not Chinatown, doesn’t eat rice with every meal, or drive a Honda Civic (badly), confessed to his childhood delusion that he looked like Tom Cruise—until his mother bluntly set him straight. Axibal’s hilarious bit about Chinese Superman—“Faster than a bullet train, more powerful than a tank running over a student in Tiananmen Square, and able to jump the Great Wall of China in a single bound”—was another big reason that N*gger Wetb*ck Ch*nk: The Race Show was such a huge hit with The Carolina Theatre audience Saturday night, and a timely first step in creating an important Pathway to Understanding in a town where some claim the Duke lacrosse case has set back racial relations 40 years.
The Carolina Theatre: http://www.carolinatheatre.org/onstage/#nwc [inactive 3/10]. N*gger Wetb*ck Ch*nk: The Race Show: http://www.nwclive.com/.