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Off-Broadway Review: “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf” at The Public Theater’s Martinson Hall (Extended through Sunday December 8, 2019)

Off-Broadway Review: “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf” at The Public Theater’s Martinson Hall (Extended through Sunday December 8, 2019)
Written by Ntozake Shange
Directed by Leah C. Gardiner with Choreography by Camille A. Brown
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Since its premiere at The Public in 1976 and its subsequent transfer to Broadway later that year, much has happened to continue to impact the lives of the women of color celebrated by Ntozake Shange in her choreopoem “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf” currently running at The Public Theater’s Martinson Hall.

In this incarnation, wearing a color of the rainbow (brown replacing indigo), each of the seven universal characters voices her survival story of having to exist in a world shaped by sexism and racism. This is a pure revival of “Colored Girls,” not a retelling or an adaptation; therefore, the scourge of homophobia and the important issues emerging from the LGBTQ+ communities are not addressed. Although this is understandable, not referencing gender fluidity, concerns of the transgender community, and sexual identity is a deeply felt loss.

Under Leah C. Gardiner’s sagacious direction, Sasha Allen (Lady in Blue), Celia Chevalier (Lady in Brown), Danaya Esperanza (Lady in Orange), Jayme Lawson (Lady in Red), Adrienne C. Moore (Lady in Yellow), Okwui Okpokwasili (Lady in Green), Alexandria Wailes (Lady in Purple) perform Camille A. Brown’s choreography en troupe and en solo and serve as part of an eerie chorus as well as immersing the audience in an engaging solo spoken word performance of a unique conflict that affects women of color as they attempt to maintain their center, their rhythm, their sanity, their voice, their ability to love, and their children.

There are occasions when the actors seem not to be fully connected with the characters portrayed in the spoken word. Ntozake Shange’s powerful words prevail nonetheless, which proves their enduring quality and abiding importance. By far the most engaging and cathartic piece is The Lady in Red’s final slam. Following the Lady in Blue’s story of her “mean/ low-down/ triflin/ & no count” partner who is “always inconsistent/ doin somethin & then bein sorry/ beatin my heart to death,” the Lady in Red delivers an impassioned and tragic narrative about Crystal and Beau Willie and their “two children/ a little girl/ “naomi kenya & a boy/ kwame beau willie brown.” Unable to escape the abusive Beau Willie, he returns uninvited and commits an unspeakable crime. The audience suddenly goes silent (for the first time) and there are the sounds of deep sadness and trembling throughout the house. This is theatre at its best.

Prior to this stillness, the audience showed approval and connection to the material by waves of shouting and finger snapping. I have snapped my fingers, shouted out, stomped my feet, and raised my hands in affirmation during worship, during rallies, during speeches at protests, even on rare occasions at a service of death and resurrection when the clergyperson zeroes in with perfection on the life and legacy of the one who has passed. I have never snapped shouted, stomped, nor waved my hands during a theatre performance. All those activities would be for my benefit, not for the actors. I find them distracting and disruptive for the actors and for my fellow audience members who came to SEE and HEAR the performance.

That said, “For Colored Girls” has not been created for me: this iconic and relevant work is for women, primarily women of color navigating their way through an often antagonistic world, making life-and-death decisions about survival and future and “dancing” toward a hopeful place, a rainbow that might be enough to provide redemption and relief from sexism, systemic racism, homophobia, abuse, and the “erasure” of their history and their rhythm. As much as this older, white, cisgender queer can “connect” to “Colored Girls,” it is my responsibility to listen as well as speak/write and continue to do my own work to end the systemic racism that continues to threaten the lives of people of color in America and globally. “For Colored Girls” is in its third extension: see it before it closes.

FOR COLORED GIRLS WHO HAVE CONSIDERED SUICIDE WHEN THE RAINBOW IS ENUF

The complete cast of “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf” features Sasha Allen (Lady in Blue), Celia Chevalier (Lady in Brown), Danaya Esperanza (Lady in Orange), Jayme Lawson (Lady in Red), Adrienne C. Moore (Lady in Yellow), Okwui Okpokwasili (Lady in Green), Alexandria Wailes (Lady in Purple), and D. Woods (Understudy).

“For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf” features an all-women of color creative team with scenic design by Myung Hee Cho, costume design by Toni-Leslie James, lighting design by Jiyoun Chang, sound design by Megumi Katayama, and original music by Martha Redbone.

“For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf” runs at The Public Theater’s Martinson Hall (425 Lafayette Street) through Sunday December 8, 2019 on the following performance schedule: Tuesday through Friday at 8:00 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Single tickets, starting at $75, can be accessed by calling (212) 967-7555, visiting www.publictheater.org, or in person at the Taub Box Office at The Public Theater. Running time is 90 minutes, without intermission.

Photo: The company of “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf,” written by Ntozake Shange and directed by Leah C. Gardiner, with choreography by Camille A. Brown, running at The Public Theater. Credit: Joan Marcus.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Wednesday, October 30, 2019