For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf
Time Out says
Theater review by Naveen Kumar
Atop a patinated brown floor encircled by a shuffled deck of mirrors, the Public Theater’s landmark revival of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf cracks open like a precious gem, flashes of insight cascading out as if by magic. The incantation begins with Ntozake Shange’s singular text, first performed at the Public in 1976 and described as a “choreopoem” by its creator. Shange’s ingenious fusion of language, music and movement conjures one soul-stirring revelation after the next.
“Bein alive & bein a woman & bein colored is a metaphysical dilemma/ i haven’t conquered yet,” says Lady in Yellow (Orange Is the New Black’s Adrienne C. Moore), one of seven players dressed in colors from the rainbow. Shange’s interlocking poems flow like dialogue, weaving vivid tales of longing and loss, self-discovery and deceit, everyday pleasures and injustice. Director Leah C. Gardiner creates a visceral happening: The call-and-response rhythm that begins with the performers spreads through an audience seated in the round. (Do snap your fingers when the spirit moves you.) Choreography by Camille A. Brown (Choir Boy) turns the swirling of hips, thrusting of limbs, and smacking of butts and thighs into a kind of animated hieroglyphics of black female experience.
The powerhouse ensemble includes rafter-splitting vocalist Sasha Allen (Lady in Blue), superbly expressive deaf actor Alexandria Wailes (Lady in Purple) and the razor-sharp Okwui Okpokwasili (Lady in Green). Toni-Leslie James’s costumes are subtly printed with the faces of female relatives beloved by each performer, evoking a lineage of sisterhood that precedes Shange’s time and promises to endure long afterward. The playwright died last year; on the evening I attended, a moment of silence was held to commemorate what would have been her 71st birthday. Her spirit seemed to dance off every reflective surface, chasing down the receding dark with flickers of exquisite light.
Public Theater (Off Broadway). By Ntozake Shange. Directed by Leah C. Gardiner. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr 45mins. No intermission.