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Paulanne Simmons

“Linda Means to Wait” Is Fascinating and Funny

“Linda Means to Wait”
Directed by Imani
Shooting Star Theatre
40 Peck Slip, between Front and South streets
Aug. 12 & 13 at 7 p.m.; Aug. 14, 21, 28 at 5 p.m.
$20, (917) 239-6690
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Aug. 21, 2005

Coming-of-age stories may be a dime a dozen, but Linda Sithole’s one-woman-show about a South African black girl growing up in Chicago is priceless

“Linda Means to Wait,” is an autobiographical work written and performed by Sithole and sensitively direct ed by Imani, artistic director of the producing company, Richard Allen Center for Culture and Art (in association with Montauk Theatre Productions). The show is back by popular demand at Shooting Star Theatre, located in the South Street Seaport. Hopefully, it will come back again…and again.

Sithole is captivating and saucy as the South African maverick who questions everything – her parents, South Africa, America, blacks, whites. Her story unravels as she and her American-Jewish boyfriend (a recorded voice) wait to find out whether her much beloved father has been killed in an airplane crash.

Sithole grew up on “Pill Hill” (a better name that “Quack Shack Gardens”), a section of a bourgeois neighborhood that has been ceded to blacks. She was unaware that she was living in a ghetto until a seventh grade history teacher in her all-black school told her class that a ghetto doesn’t have to be a slum – it just has to be a neighborhood no one else wants.

Sithole’s performance is filled with emotion and humor. She takes a wry look at American culture from The Brady Bunch to The Jackson Five. She sings songs that cover the likes of Dolly Parton and Miriam Makeba. She dances. She mimes celebrities and members of her family. Sithole’s monologue includes such one-liners as “I was as out of place at these dinners as the Mafia at H&R Block.”

The daughter of an ethnomusicologist, Sithole has created a monologue that is didactic in the best sense of the word. Her explanation of the differences between African and European music is entertaining and informative, if somewhat biased. The comparison she makes between the black South Africans in the mines and the black slaves in the cotton fields is painfully apt.

Linda Means to Wait is both a personal history and a family saga. Sithole seems to be well aware that as individuals grow they must venture into new territory, but they also bring along their family, their country and their culture. And it is from the past that the future is created.

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