By William Wolf

DON'T BOTHER ME, I CAN'T COPE  Send This Review to a Friend

The York Theatre Company’s revival of the 1972 revue “Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope” as part of its “Musicals in Mufti” series has special historical value in addition to its artistic importance. Billed as “A Musical Entertainment” by Mickey Grant and conceived by Vinnette Carroll, who died in 2002, the smartly mounted show recalls a time when an all-black cast performed in the context of the battle for civil rights being waged at the time.

The new staging (February 27-March 6) needs to be placed in light of all that went on in the 1960s and into the 1970s, and if viewed with the period in mind, the songs take on a special aura and impact. An excellent eight-member cast performing in concert style demonstrates why the numbers resonated at the time as well continues to resonate in retrospect. The songs, with music and lyrics by Micki Grant, who also wrote the book, veer from the intensely personal to gospel style.

The second category is highlighted by Doug Eskew as the Preacher, who has a powerhouse of a voice, a dynamic bearing and ignites audience members to clap rhythmically as he sermonizes with the climactic “Good Vibrations.” When he moves through the crowd, his charm is irresistible.

Examples of the more personal approach include “Lookin’ Over from Your Side,” sung by Raun Ruffin, “All I Need” by Tina Fabrique and the ensemble, and “Questions,” performed by Darilyn Castillo. Others in the cast who contribute impressively in various ways are Jelani Alladin, Marva Hicks, Devin L. Roberts and Debra Walton.

The program is loaded with a variety of numbers that include the title song, as well as “Harlem Streets,” “Slow Blues,” “Ghetto Life,” “Time Brings About a Change,” “So Little Time,” “Thank Heaven for You.” “Fighting for Pharoah” and more.

Leslie Dockery’s direction achieves smooth transitions and the fine music direction is by William Foster McDaniel. “Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope” affords an opportunity to step back in time from the perspective of the present and enjoy the journey. At the York Theatre Company at St. Peters, 54th Street and Lexington Avenue. Phone: 212-935-5820. Reviewed February 29. 2016.


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