Friday, May 19, 2017

Orlando Fringe 2017 review: 'Black in the Box'

Posted By on Fri, May 19, 2017 at 5:03 PM

click to enlarge blackinthebox_2017_4x4.png

Time travel is a familiar dramatic device, but I can't remember a Fringe show using it with such devastating effect as Black in the Box, a one-man multimedia performance artwork exploring the black experience in America. Writer-performer Marlon Burnley enters a chain-wrapped wooden trunk and emerges in 1619 as an African-American Everyman. From the slave ships and cotton fields to minstrel stages and civil rights marches, Burnley relives his ancestors' agonies through an expressive mix of mime, mask-work, dance and sparing spoken word.

Beginning the show stripped to the waist, Burnley collects new tools (shoes, a flask, a stick and ultimately a voice) which are tragically turned against him. Burnley's work, which was created for his MFA thesis, never settles for strident polemics, but I'll admit I felt deeply uncomfortable watching with an all-white audience as he endured physical and emotional terrorism our feet. Was I witness to a spiritual act of racial reclamation, or complicit in yet another exploitation of black bodies?

My ambivalence about how to feel afterwards should be taken as a testament to Burnley's brave, boundary-pushing production. His show may be unsettling, but it's also essential in today's fractured cultural climate.

Black in the Box
Red Venue
Friday, May 19, 7:00 PM
Saturday, May 20, 1:00 PM
Tuesday, May 23, 9:00 PM
Friday, May 26, 8:30 PM
Sunday, May 28, 1:00 PM

Tags: , , ,

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Orlando Weekly works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Central Florida.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Orlando’s true free press free.

Related Locations


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Read the Digital Print Issue

April 14, 2021

View more issues


© 2021 Orlando Weekly

Website powered by Foundation