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Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Review: For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is enuf
Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls...
The work that changed everything comes to the city again
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois
I admire Tyler Perry. I think I'd even like him. But is is not Tyler Perry's For Colored Girls...
No! From the first moment of its existence, it has been Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls. From the poem, to the poem adapted to theatre form for a bar in California, to New York and a Tony nomination, to the publication of that play version, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf has always been Ntozake Shange's work. I say this because history has a strange way with this kind of wondrously fragile material...before you know it is just a movie made by Tyler Perry that is being remembered and not the the woman—Ntozake Shange—who gave us this lush, violent, heart-breaking and often very funny series of verses about the lot of women of colour in North America. I have known of the work since I was in my teens; I read it (devoured it) when I was in my early 20s. I, simply, adore this work.
What do I mean by that? Colored Girls is, no doubt about, about difficult lives. However it is not miserabilism. These women she writes of are strong, strident, angry and break through the walls sex, race and poverty have built around them
Colored Girls, and this cast (in photo, l-r, Letitia Brookes, Cassandre Mentor, Vanessa Schmit-Craan and Kim Nelson) and their director, Millie Tresierra, captured the beauty of Shange's cadences (and her fascinating, percussive repetitions), and brought a simple, clean theatricality to it as well. They did this on a perfectly acceptable, though spartan, set by the director and a care in Alycia O'Keefe's lighting that worked in the difficult Mainline space. There were no fireworks! No thea-tricks! Just handing the verses back and forth and occasionally incanting them in chorus so that the whole evening simply washed over the audience like a (sometimes-stinging) balm.
I do have quibbles. The cast and director must continue to tighten the rhythms so that the evening moves with even more urgency than it already does. One small blocking problem: action on the floor must be moved ever-so-slightly upstage so it is not missed by back rows. But, truly this is nitpicking.
Go to this Colored Girls. Sit back. Breathe. It will touch you.