The seven actresses that bring to life the stories of the “Colored Girls” are the where the real magic lies in this powerful and touching piece by Ntozake Shange. They aren’t able to rely on sophisticated set design, costumes and wigs because there are none. The stage is small and sparsely decorated with five, lightly painted, pillars and a small fence behind which a multi-instrumentalist (Derf Reklaw) provides musical accompaniment. For much of the show, each actress is dressed simply in black with a bright scarf at her waist in the color that she represents; red, purple, yellow, orange, blue, green and brown.
Between them they portray an array of characters, some funny, others intense, that represent the broad spectrum of experiences women of color face in
. The play was written in the 1970’s but the images and themes are timeless. In the 2010 film version, For Colored Girls, adapted and directed by Tyler Perry, each character had a singular storyline throughout and they were connected by either their work or the apartment building that many of them lived in. Here, however, each story has its own set of emotional and social complications and the glue that binds them together is each woman’s search for her own peace, love and humanity. America
The performers selected for each of the colors represented were chosen well. Standouts were Mystie Galloway, Nia Witts and Yvette Saunders. Galloway, the lady in yellow, brought a lively, focused charm to her monologues, most clearly evidenced in the first, where she brings to life a coquettish young virgin ready to take the plunge into womanhood. Witts, the lady in brown, exercised her range throughout the production and really shined in a monologue about a preteen in love with the ghost of a long-dead Haitian revolutionary. Yvette Saunders, the lady in blue, was also wonderful in multiple roles and glided with a grace and ease that made the stage seem to dance with her. These actresses brought nuance and depth to their multiple roles, but also were supported solidly by the other four performers, and every one of them shined in their final monologues where the intensity was heightened to a fever pitch.
The director (J.C. Gafford) and choreographer (Fernando Christopher) are to be commended for staging such a powerful piece on the limited budget of a small playhouse, and my one note would be that as much as dance is referenced in the verse, I expected to see even more and I think that more music could have been used in some of the transitions to make them smoother and accentuate the mood. All in all, with seven bright stars at the center, it’s hard not to be moved by the message of the playwright’s honest and universal piece. This production proves that in the right hands, the material can speak for itself.
The show will be playing until March 17, 2012. Tickets are available on their website ($20) :http://lyrictheatrela.com/