FRINGE 2017: 'White Privilege'

You might not think you want to listen to a huge shirtless white guy, with a big belly, big beard and big shock of wild white hair talk about race for a full 50 minutes — but trust me, you do.

You might not think you want to listen to a huge shirtless white guy, with a big belly, big beard and big shock of wild white hair talk about race for a full 50 minutes — but trust me, you do. That is exactly what you get with Jim Hopkins’ often hilarious, humble and humiliating (in the right way) one-man show, White Privilege.

Hopkins, a regular performer with Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, opens by announcing that he is the whitest white man in America and goes on to poke fun at the endless laundry list of the cultural associations that go along with that. Thankfully, he doesn’t bare all, but he exposes enough both metaphorically and physically, spending the better part of the show in nothing else but his American flag boxers. While he exhibits no shame in showing off his great white bulk, he underscores a great deal of embarrassment in how our country stumbles and sins when it comes to people of color.

The man has huge voice, and knows how to work the stage, work a line and work an audience. He’s a consummate and fearless performer. The energy lags only a few times during the parts of the production dedicated to family history. But when he shifts back into declarative mode, this stripped-down production regains its size and sizzle.

White Privilege does have its somber moments, especially when Hopkins retells of a city-wide battle between whites and blacks in the early 1920s that has, for the most part, been erased from the history books. The several moments of humor that pepper his retelling of that tragic tale serve mostly to offset the pain and guilt of an unconscionable chapter of our national story.

Hopkins has lots of clever lines and observations. My favorite was the recasting of the acronym WMD to the equally destructive White Male Demographic. 

Race is both the most deeply rooted problem in our country and one of the most difficult to discuss. However, for just shy of an hour, this giant of a guy walks that tightrope with nary a misstep while never underestimating its peril or importance. 


The CINCINNATI FRINGE FESTIVAL continues through June 11. Find CityBeat reviews of 41 early performances here. For a full schedule and more info about Fringe, visit cincyfringe.com.

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