Critical Context (Comprehensive Guide to Drama)
The Colored Museum contains many references to previous literature, as well as to important figures in African American theater, music, and dance. While much of the play’s message and much of its humor can be appreciated by someone who does not understand the references to earlier material, those members of the audience who are able to pick up on the references will find the play a richer experience. “The Last Mama-on-the-Couch Play,” in particular, is a parody of one of the most successful plays by an African American playwright, Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. Hansberry’s play, set in a living room, deals with the struggles with racism experienced by a black family made up of a religious mother, a daughter, the downtrodden son Walter Lee, and his wife. A Raisin in the Sun won major awards, was produced on Broadway, and was made into a film: It is one of the best-known plays by an African American playwright. In fact, it became so well known that for most people, A Raisin in the Sun is the prototypical African American play. Wolfe has said in several interviews that he respects A Raisin in the Sun and feels indebted to it, but felt he needed to break free from the model Hansberry provided. In other words, from Wolfe’s perspective, it was time for new plays, new stories, new ideas. “The Last Mama-on-the-Couch Play” is at once a tribute and a declaration of independence for Wolfe.
(The entire section is 427 words.)