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.
VIDEO PREVIEW: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7cw0Gi4ECw&feature=youtube_gdata.
Burning Coal Theatre Company: http://burningcoal.org/.
She-Cow Productions: N/A.
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).
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.
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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/.