Quote of the Day: The play centers things that are deeply important to me: complicated Black women, friendships, art, the pursuit of dreams and found family. Nicole A. Watson, Director for Blues for an Alabama Sky by Pearl Cleage, on stage at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, MN through March 12, 2023.
Indeed, this is a great choice for Black History month, as it is an historical play, set during the Harlem Renaissance in the 1930’s. Art, music, dreams, friendship and family are all themes of this play, as well as racism, women’s reproductive rights, and homophobia. Angel (Kimberly Marable) is a jazz singer, looking for work, recently broken up with her white boyfriend, and needs a place to stay. Her long-time friend Guy (Lamar Jefferson) invites her to stay with him. Their relationship goes back many years, with Guy often rescuing Angel from difficult situations. Guy is a fashion designer with a dream of designing costumes for legendary singer Josephine Baker, who resides in Paris. Guy is openly gay during a time when that was very dangerous. His friends, chosen family, accept him, but a newcomer to the group, Leland (Darius Jordan Lee) does not.
Their friend Delia (Brittany Bellizeare) lives in the same building. She’s a social worker who is trying to get a women’s health clinic up and running to offer family planning for the women in her neighborhood. She’s met with resistance, but not from local doctor Sam (Stephen Conrad Moore) who frequently visits the building and hangs out with his friends.
When Leland meets Angel, he sees her as a replacement for his deceased wife, who died in childbirth. Although, they are very different people in their ideologies, Angel sees their relationship as a safe place. Leland’s judgement about Guy’s life style and sexual orientation are huge red flags for all of the friends. When Guy calls Angel out on it, they fight. Meanwhile, Delia and Sam meet often to discuss the clinic and women’s health, then develop a romance. The plot escalates to a tragic ending, that still offers hope.
The first act takes a while for the set-up, but once we’ve established who these characters are and their relationship with each other, it picks up. By the second act, it becomes a riveting play about the issues that each one faces. While it carries some heavy themes, and a tragic moment, it still offers humor, hope, and possibilities for some of the characters.
Nicole A. Watson directs a stellar cast for this historical play. The added music, dancing, and costumes, both for the actors and the designs by Guy, are wonderful. (Costumes by Sarita Fellows) The set (designed by Lawrence E. Moten III) has a 3D feel, using the full breadth of the thrust stage. Some scenes are done on the floor, steps, or entryways. The main part of the stage is Guy’s apartment. Behind that is Delia’s apartment. I worried that their voices would get lost back there, but the actors did a great job of projecting, so I didn’t miss any lines. I liked the visual depth it created. Sherrice Mojgani provided the lighting design, which made a big difference, especially for the scene further back. Paul James Prendergast is the sound designer/composer. I really liked the addition of music, singing and dancing, which also puts you in the time period of the early 1930’s.
You can see Blues for an Alabama Sky at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, MN through March 12, 2023.
Go. Create. Inspire!
Journaling Prompt: When have you had a moment of feeling like you needed to move on? Maybe leave a place, or people, and find a new path?