Review | Half a century later, ‘for colored girls’ shines again

When Broadway reopened in the fall, it was host to a remarkable revival of new plays by and about black men and women (“Pass Over,” “Chicken and Biscuits,” “Thoughts of a Colored Man,” “Clyde’s,” “Skeleton Crew ”), in addition to the Broadway premieres of “Lackawanna Blues” and Alice Childress’s “Trouble in Mind” (which had been scheduled to appear on Broadway 65 years ago).

As the new season draws to a close, the time has come for a new production of Ntozake Shange “for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enough”, one of the most influential and successful works of black drama 20’sthe century.

Described by Shange as a “choreopoem”, “for colored girls…” explores the joyful and painful experiences of seven black women (identified by the colors of the rainbow) through poems, monologues, dance, music, song and art. visuals. . Shange, who died in 2018, also makes a brief appearance via recording.

“For Colored Girls…” was originally produced off-Broadway in 1976 at the Public Theater and then transferred to Broadway’s Booth Theatre, where it went on to become, as noted in the Playbill program, “the longest-running stage play ever.” long duration of an African American”. American writer and the first successful feminist play in Broadway history.

The current revival also originated Off-Broadway at the Public Theatre, opening just before the pandemic in 2019, with Leah C. Gardiner directing and Tony nominee Camille A. Brown (“Eleven Eleven”) choreographing. On This Island”, “Choir Boy”). . With Brown now also serving as director and choreographer, “for color girls…” returns to Broadway’s Booth Theatre.

“for colored girls…” is the kind of nonlinear, visceral theatrical piece that needs to be experienced live and doesn’t translate well to other media, as evidenced by a flat 1982 television adaptation for PBS and the ambitious but troubled film adaptation of Tyler Perry from 2010. (That said, shooting a pro-shot of the current production for a streaming provider like Netflix might not be a bad idea.)

It is also a challenging piece to appreciate or understand, especially given its idiosyncratic, jerky, oblique style, as well as its different subject matter (dealing with rape, abortion, mental illness, and even infanticide).

Brown, who has become the first black woman to serve as a director and choreographer on Broadway in 65 years, was the ideal choice to direct the revival, infusing it with modern dance and coordinating its visual and lyrical elements in a striking pattern. The seven women (including Amara Granderson, Tendayi Kuumba, Kenita R. Miller, Okwui Okpokwasil’i, Stacey Sergeant, Alexandria Wailes, and D. Woods) handle their solo pieces beautifully while forming a tight-knit ensemble.

Cabin Theater, 222 W. 45the St., forcoloredgirlsbway.com. Until August 17.

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