Broadway Review: FOR COLORED GIRLS WHO HAVE CONSIDERED SUICIDE / WHEN THE RAINBOW IS ENUF (Booth)

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by Tony Frankel on May 10, 2022

in Theater-New York

PLENTY OF RAINBOW BUT LITTLE COLOR

In feminist Ntozake Shange‘s 1976 “choreopoem” (a term coined by the late playwright), the experiences of Black women in America are transformed into poetry, music, and choreography. Seven ladies in rainbow colors (Lady in Blue, Lady in Green, etc.) tell stories about joyful sexual awakening, but also about rape; they tell stories about confident, big-spirited women who cry themselves to sleep. Yet once the wounds are spoken about and danced about, they turn into healing balms. The play also has that meta-theatrical style that was born out of the unconventional avant-garde work from the 1960s (Joseph Chaikin, Megan Terry, Maria Irene Fornés, et al.).

Stacey Sargeant (Lady in Blue), Amara Granderson (Lady in Orange), Okwui
Okpokwasili (Lady in Green), Tendayi Kuumba (Lady in Brown), Kenita R. Miller (Lady in Red),
D. Woods (Lady in Yellow), Alexandria Wailes (Lady in Purple)

Yet in the production that opened on Broadway last night, the show that was riveting when I saw it many times since college came off as dated and draggy, especially as presented by director/choreographer Camille A. Brown as a modern-day creation that reflects today’s Black women in attitude, hairstyles, power and inclusivity (one of the actresses is deaf). With gorgeous lighting by Jiyoun Chang and an offstage band playing Martha Redbone & Aaron Whitby‘s original music (lifted from The Public’s 2019 production which Brown choreographed), the evening sadly felt like a variety show with no commercials; an unearned burst of joyous dancing and pride that failed to underscore the grit of the writing. When the show began, and the Ladies came on stage in blazingly exuberant and celebratory Afro-jazz moves, the house was whooping and hollering as if in a Black church, but the patrons soon stopped and remained silent for the entire 90 minutes, which spoke to an emotional disconnect.

D. Woods (Lady in Yellow), Kenita R. Miller (Lady in Red), Alexandria Wailes (Lady in Purple),
Tendayi Kuumba (Lady in Brown), Okwui Okpokwasili (Lady in Green),
Amara Granderson (Lady in Orange), Stacey Sargeant (Lady in Blue)

Which is a shame, because one of the original thrills was that the play brought to the stage the joy, pain, anguish, drama, and excitement of African-American women out in the open for the first time. It was a brilliant portrayal of female strength when others tried to weaken their souls, a scathing testament to the fury of African American women subjugated by a world in which equality, let alone even being noticed, was a near-impossibility. Even as women still deal with power struggles in our world today, #BLM and the barrage of internet info has diffused the message’s impact. Which is why it was a mistake not to make the monologues the centerpiece of the show.

Stacey Sargeant (Lady in Blue), Alexandria Wailes (Lady in Purple),
Kenita R. Miller (Lady in Red), Tendayi Kuumba (Lady in Brown), D. Woods (Lady in Yellow),
Okwui Okpokwasili (Lady in Green), Amara Granderson (Lady in Orange)

Vivid and figurative, the monologues  — drenched in the stereotyping and slamming of ’70s Black males — seemed difficult to concentrate on in this production, especially when ASL was utilized. When the show slowed down from near-constant movement and music, the monologues could become theatrical wonders, especially one from Kenita R. Miller, who should be nominated for a Tony as Lady in Red, whose horripilating tale of abuse was the show’s 11 o’clock number. Moments like this were too few to warrant this revival.

photos by Marc J. Franklin, 2022

for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
Booth Theatre, 222 West 45th Street
ends on May 22, 2022 EXTENDED to June 5, 2022
for tickets, visit Telecharge

{ 1 comment }

Eric May 12, 2022 at 2:57 pm

Wait a minute… THOSE outfits were nominated for a Tony this year? What the..?

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