White Man's Burden

Spinning Into Butter spreads itself thin over racial prejudice

She riffs on about plantation mentality, paternalism and noble savages. And finally, finally, her big revelation is that after years of studying black lit, she realizes, "I hate Toni Morrison! Her books suck!"

Ah, "suck." What a gorgeous turn of phrase. Was there no other way this well-educated woman might have expressed her thoughts about the shortcomings of Beloved?

Playwright Gilman can shoulder the responsibility for that level of writing, but she cannot be blamed for some of the other words uttered by Mills. The actress sloppily interjects strings of "I mean, I mean" and "but, but, but" into the dialogue throughout the play. She starts sentence after sentence with "Look, I mean...." Gilman didn't type that clutter, and somebody needs to get after Mills and tell her to stop ad-libbing.

Theatre Three's Ross Morgan, Amy Mills and Pam Dougherty offer an excruciating treatise on political correctness.
Andy Hanson
Theatre Three's Ross Morgan, Amy Mills and Pam Dougherty offer an excruciating treatise on political correctness.

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Theatre Three

The one actor who gets it right is Chris Messersmith as the lowly campus security guard whose job it is to investigate the racist threats and then to apprehend the perpetrator (whose identity is no surprise at all). Messersmith sort of shuffles quietly through his role, subtly offering this or that piece of advice to high-strung Sarah. He's the only underplayer in this cast, and his presence nicely counterbalances all the jittery dithering done by everyone else.

In the end, Spinning into Butter doesn't work because it's too jammed up in white liberal guilt.

Playwright Gilman has overwritten her one-note play, trying to impress with offhand references to Ayn Rand, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Jackson Pollock and Rilke, as though she's showing off her own homework. But to what purpose? In trying to make big statements about how white people should just 'fess up to their ugly thoughts about non-whites, Gilman covers the same territory again and again, restating not too cleverly what most people already know. Racism is wrong. And your point is?

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