Theatre Mirror Reviews - "For Colored Girls..."

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note: entire contents copyright 2005 by Larry Stark

"For Colored Girls Who Have Tried Suicide
When The Rainbow Is ENUF"

By Ntozake Shange
Directed by John Ambrosino
Choreographed by Josie Bray

Lighting Design by Daniel Henry
Costume Design by Angela Markman & Shanna Parks
Sound Design by Tahsin Alam
Dramaturgy by Rebecca Olson & Ania Wieckowski
Production Stage Manager Jennifer Braun

Lady in Brown...Karimah Saida Moreland
Lady in Yellow.............ToRena Webb
Lady in Purple..........Shannon Walker
Lady in Red..............Daria Johnson
Lady in Green..............Heather Fry
Lady in Blue..............Jackie Davis
Lady in Orange..........Baindu Coomber

I had never before seen an entire audience leap spontaneously, in unison, to its feet in the seconds between final blackout and curtain-calls, until the opening night of this classic mounted by The Animus Ensemble. Under the direction of John Ambrosino these seven amazing Black dancer/singer/actor/performers brought the brutal truths and heartbreaking beauties of Ntozake Shange's theatrical poetry perfectly to life and thoroughly deserved the first of many long, appreciative ovations. This new company's second BCA appearance launched them into contention for all sorts of "Bests" in a year already crowded with excellences.

The wide three-quarter-thrust space of the BCA Theatre was filled with a huge square of pure white, the dark backstage exposed and empty, and only Daniel Henry's lighting and bright costumes by Angela Markman and Shanna Parks "colored" this richly coffee-colored cast. For the first poem a single girl confronted six figures all muffled in identical black bags that twisted and writhed as the constrained shapes inside struggled to respond to her wondering questions, until at last each brightly-clad woman in turn burst ritually from her chrysalis. Those restrictive shrouds, carefully deposited Outside the dance-space, lay there till the end when each, with a characteristic gesture, tossed or dropped or hurled hers into a gleamingly White trash-can forever, and this Rainbow danced joyfully off-stage, and to glory.

It's hard to realize that Shange's piece is thirty years old --- it bursts so brightly, uniquely on the mind, telling self-affirming personal truths that always seem new, always need telling. Many of the individual pieces of this mosaic speak of musky sex, from losing virginity to turning tricks to spousal abuse --- but self-awareness and understanding are the keys finally freeing these souls from the stereotypes of Black men and White society. The times when one woman is alone on stage are rare, and at all others the entire ensemble is reacting, alive to every word, every wriggle, every gesture, step, and truth their sister brings forth for them (and us!) to share. Each unique personality gets at least one unbroken moment center-stage, but the flow is unbroken, moved from mood to mood by Tahsin Alam's rhythmic sound-designs and Josie Bray's restlessly protean barefoot choreography. And Artistic Director John Ambrosino's shaping hand and eye are eloquently unobtrusive.

Like last year's newer Shange poem "Spell #7" this classic defines the word "ensemble" perfectly as the seven-member cast and their audience become


"For Colored Girls Who Have tried Suicide/When The Rainbow Is Enuf" (25 March - 23 April)
Boston Center for The Arts, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide