Black and Jewish in Beverly Hills

Rain Pryor’s one-woman play ‘Fried Chicken and Latkes’ is a funny, energetic take on growing up bi-racial before it was fashionable

Rain Pryor performing 'Fried Chicken and Latkes.' (photo credit: Courtesy)
Rain Pryor performing 'Fried Chicken and Latkes.' (photo credit: Courtesy)

NEW YORK (AP) — Rain Pryor has a lot of tart comments to share about growing up with a famous father and being a bi-racial child before it was fashionable. Her funny, energetic, autobiographical one-woman show is currently performing off-Broadway at Actors Temple Theatre.

The 60-minute show contains a lot of cursing and slang, all in the service of comedy, as Pryor reminisces irreverently about growing up black and Jewish in Beverly Hills in the 1970s and 1980s. As she puts it, “So, there I was, this black and Jewish kid in Beverly Hills. Which meant I was proud, (beat) yet, I felt so guilty for it.”

Rain Pryor performing 'Fried Chicken and Latkes.' (photo credit: Courtesy)
Rain Pryor performing ‘Fried Chicken and Latkes.’ (photo credit: Courtesy)

Pryor provides plenty of laughs, along with poignant glimpses of what it was like to be a bi-racial child, such as the shock of experiencing racism for the first time at age 6. She also describes a home life with a tough mother, and a famous but mostly absent father, legendary comedian Richard Pryor, replete with casual recreational drug use by the adults.

Throughout the show, she often acts as her teenage self, swinging her hair — which she refers to as “a long Jew-Fro” — and singing and dancing. She also enacts various relatives, notably her iconic father, who passed away in 2005, and her liberal, white Jewish mother, “who thought she was a militant black woman.”

Other colorful family matriarchs dispensing wisdom through Pryor’s impersonations include her loving Jewish maternal grandmother, Bubbe, and in marked contrast, her foul-mouthed African-American great-grandmother, who ran, in Pryor’s words, a whorehouse. In the persona of her great-grandmother, she confronts the audience to defuse use of the N-word, and tries to get them to say both the N-word and “honky.”

Her smooth, jazzy three-piece band is led by Charles Lindberg on the piano, with Chris Smith on bass and Edwin Briscoe on percussion. The show is capped off by Pryor ably impersonating Billie Holiday while singing “God Bless the Child,” an apt song for a woman who needed to figure out who she was and “get her own” identity.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press

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