August 19, 2014

Louis C.K. once began a riff about how much he hated standing in the audience of a comedy show by joking that even if Richard Pryor came back from the dead, he would still see Pryor’s show only if he could sit down. The fantasy of seeing Pryor do stand-up again is a large part of the appeal for any play about that comedian, but it’s also why pulling off the performance is so difficult. It shouldn’t surprise that Dark Meat on a Funny Mind, a clumsy stumble through the highlights of Pryor’s life, presents the comedian with none of his magnetism. Charles Weldon doesn’t look or sound like the man he’s portraying. Nor does he capture his daring, existential fear or ruthless, even dangerous commitment to confessional comedy. Part of the problem is that he hasn’t committed his lines to memory — and it’s hard to sustain confidence in a play about a wildly brilliant comedian when the lights go up on two podiums with scripts on top of them. (Mr. Weldon replaced Anthony Chisholm, who dropped out.)