“For Colored Girls …” Is an Expressive and Eloquent Pastiche of 20 Life-Poems, Dance, and Music

The cast includes (clockwise, from lower left) Carly P. Jones, Tara Whitney Rison, Emelia "Me-Me" Cowans, Sherida McMullan, Aurelia Belfield, Kyma Lassiter, and LaKeisha Coffey (photo by the Right Image Photography, Inc.)
The cast includes (clockwise, from lower left) Carly P. Jones, Tara Whitney Rison, Emelia "Me-Me" Cowans, Sherida McMullan, Aurelia Belfield, Kyma Lassiter, and LaKeisha Coffey (photo by the Right Image Photography, Inc.)
The cast includes (clockwise, from lower left) Carly P. Jones, Tara Whitney Rison, Emelia "Me-Me" Cowans, Sherida McMullan, Aurelia Belfield, Kyma Lassiter, and LaKeisha Coffey (photo by the Right Image Photography, Inc.)
The cast includes (clockwise, from lower left) Carly P. Jones, Tara Whitney Rison, Emelia "Me-Me" Cowans, Sherida McMullan, Aurelia Belfield, Kyma Lassiter, and LaKeisha Coffey (photo by the Right Image Photography, Inc.)

Sister-hood is powerful. African-American playwright and poet Ntozake Shange’s celebrated choreopoem, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf, fuses poetry and dance. It is an expressive and eloquent pastiche of 20 poems, dance, and music that dramatizes the giddy highs and gut-wrenching lows of seven typical urban black women embarked on frequently painful but ultimately empowering journeys of self-discovery. To borrow a phrase from Canadian folksinger Leonard Cohen: They dance to the end of love. And then they dance back, because expressing their innermost feelings out loud — in words, steps, and song — makes them stronger.

The current Burning Coal Theatre Company and She-Cow Productions presentation of For Colored Girls …, performed in Murphey School Auditorium as part of Burning Coal’s “Wait Til You See This!” second-stage series, certainly struck some emotional chords with its audience last Sunday afternoon. For Colored Girls …, which debuted in the mid-1970s, is as relevant today as it was then.

Under the sure-handed guidance of N.C. Central University Department of Theatre faculty member Karen D. Dacons-Brock, a splendid seven-woman ensemble really sunk their teeth into their juicy roles and their characters’ life-poems and — aided and abetted by the kinetic choreography of Cynthia Penn and the invigorating original music and piano accompaniment of Charles “Chuckey” Robinson — She-Cow producers Emelia “Me-Me” Cowans as Lady in Red and Sherida McMullan as Lady in Blue make indelible impressions. So do LaKeisha Coffey as Lady in Orange, Carly P. Jones as Lady in Green, Kyma Lassiter as Lady in Brown, Aurelia Belfield as Lady in Yellow, and Tara Whitney Rison as Lady in Purple. These very fine young actresses fearlessly plunge into the ocean of heartache that comprises Ntozake Shange’s script and emerge sadder but a great deal wiser. They may start out as victims, but they end up as survivors — of poverty, drugs, alcohol, faithless and abusive men, unwanted pregnancies, abortion, and even — in one chilling episode — infanticide as a baby daddy’s ultimate act of revenge on his rebellious baby mama.

To describe the characters in more detail would rob potential audiences of certain surprises and shocks that give For Colored Girls … its kick. Producers Me-Me Cowans and Sherida McMullan, director Karen Dacons-Brock, choreographer Cynthia Penn, composer and accompanist of Chuckey Robinson, and the cast deserve highest kudos for reviving and reinvigorating For Colored Girls ….

SECOND OPINION: May 14th Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Scott Ross: http://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=5537; and May 4th WRAL-TV interview with Karen D. Dacons-Brock, conducted by Renee Chou: http://www.wral.com/entertainment/video/11063289/#/vid11063289. (Note: To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of the May 10th Triangle Theater Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2012/05/ntozake-shanges-choreopoem-for-colored-girls-is-a-passionate-elegy-for-african-american-women/.)

Burning Coal Theatre Company and She-Cow Productions present FOR COLORED GIRLS WHO HAVE CONSIDERED SUICIDE WHEN THE RAINBOW IS ENUF at 7:30 p.m. May 19 and 2 p.m. May 20 in the Murphey School Auditorium, 224 Polk St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27604. TICKETS: $20 ($15 students with ID, seniors, and active-duty military personnel).

BOX OFFICE: 919-714-9712 or Emelia.ForColoredGirls@gmail.com.

SHOW: http://burningcoal.org/for-colored-girls/.

VIDEO PREVIEW: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7cw0Gi4ECw&feature=youtube_gdata.

SERIES: http://burningcoal.org/secondstage/.

PRESENTERS:

Burning Coal Theatre Company: http://burningcoal.org/.

She-Cow Productions: N/A.

VENUE/DIRECTIONS: http://burningcoal.org/murphey-school-auditorium/.

OTHER LINKS:

The Play: http://books.simonandschuster.com/For-colored-girls-who-have-considered-the-rainbow/Ntozake-Shange/9781451624205 (Simon & Schuster) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/For_Colored_Girls_Who_Have_Considered_Suicide_When_the_Rainbow_Is_Enuf (Wikipedia).

The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).

The Playwright: http://authors.simonandschuster.com/Ntozake-Shange/1103421 (Simon & Schuster) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ntozake_Shange (Wikipedia).

The Director: http://www.nccu.edu/directory/details.cfm?id=kbrock (N.C. Central University Department of Theatre).

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

To start your FREE subscription to this newsletter, e-mail RobertM748@aol.com and type SUBSCRIBE TTR in the Subject: line.

To read all of Robert W. McDowell’s Triangle Theater Review previews and reviews online at Triangle Arts & Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/robert-w-mcdowell/.

By Robert W. McDowell

Robert W. McDowell is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer, editor, and critic. He has written theater, film, book, and music previews and reviews for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, and Classical Voice of North Carolina, all based in Raleigh. In 1980-91, he covered business, industry, government, and education for (We the People of) North Carolina magazine, published monthly by N.C. Citizens for Business and Industry. In April 2001, McDowell started Robert's Reviews, a FREE weekly e-mail newsletter that provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of the performing arts in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, which includes Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro. Triangle Review is the latest-and-greatest version of McDowell's original newsletter. (To start your FREE subscription, e-mail robertm748[at]aol.com and type SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) From December 1980 until September 2017, McDowell served on the board of directors of The Cinema, Inc., a Raleigh-based nonprofit film society formed in 1966. He currently publishes a weekly list of FREE advance screenings of movies in the Triangle area. (To have your e-mail address added to this FREE list, e-mail robertm748[at]aol.com and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.) McDowell also co-edited and supervised the production of Jim Valvano's Guide to Great Eating (JTV Enterprises, 1984), a 224-page sports celebrity cookbook; and he served as a fact checker for Valvano: They Gave Me a Lifetime Contract, and Then They Declared Me Dead (Pocket Books, 1991).