A plum bun, we learn, is a pastry: white flour on the outside, with plums or raisins or any dark fruit on the inside. In the Black culture of the 1920s, it was a metaphor for those with light-skin who could “pass,” pretending to be white to enjoy all the benefits of a racist society—access to stores, restaurants, good schools, and, most of all, easy acceptance in moving through the world. Plum Bun is a novel by Jesse Redmond Fauset, written nearly a century ago; this remarkable show is an adaptation of the novel, and it concludes EgoPo’s Harlem Renaissance season, co-presented with Theatre in the X.
The adaptation was created by Lane Savadove and the show’s director, Walter DeShields; it takes the interesting tack of having the characters not only speak dialogue but also speak the narration; the result is an appealingly literary fast-forward motion. Under DeShields’ clever direction this impressive cast of 19, manages, with a couple of chairs and some excellent costumes, to evoke a whole by-gone era.
Well, maybe not by-gone enough.
It begins in Philadelphia with a happy family of four.
Plum Bun’s plum bun is Angela Murray (the excellent Alexandria Orr) whose light-skinned mother (June Patterson) teaches her to “pass—just for fun” as they shop in Wanamaker’s, and attend concerts. Angela’s sister, Virginia (Taylor J. Mitchell) is as dark skinned as their father (Kyson A. Martin).
Once the parents die and Angela leaves Philadelphia for New York, the sisters grow apart. Angela’s artistic aspirations complicate matters as she continues to “pass” in art college and in the bohemian circles in downtown Manhattan, and ignores her sister.
There are of course love stories—the two men who woo the sisters, Anthony, a good guy (Ray Wrightstone) and Roger, a bad guy (James Kern) —and a funny fast-talking friend (Kylie Westerbeck). If the conclusion disappoints with its coincidence, it provides the happy ending we know is a soothing contrivance.. This is a good story well told, and a fine (if long) theatrical evening.
[Christ Church Neighborhood House, 20 N. American St] April 19-29, 2023; egopo.org
4 Replies to “PLUM BUN (EgoPo): Passing on history”
Thank you for the great review! I’m really glad you enjoyed the experience. Sorry to correct, but the name for the actor of Anthony is Ray Wrightstone, not Ray Whitestone.
Glad you liked the show! Just so you know, I’m the actor for Anthony and my name is Ray Wrightstone, not Ray Whitestone. Thank you!