Many times, theatre can be a lot like real estate. It's about location, location, location. A terrible show in a great space will never make the show better. But a great show in a poor space can really bring down the experience. And such is the case for InnateVolution's production of Ntozake Shange's classic play, "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf".
"For Colored Girls" debuted in 1974 in a bar in Berkley, California. Since then, it has moved to theatres all over the country including a run on Broadway. And now I know why the show moved away from a bar as opposed to into a bar. Stepping into The Call on Bryn Mawr, it's apparent that it's a very nice bar. However, nice bars don't often make for nice theatres. Taking my seat on my bar stool, I knew that this wasn't going to be a situation that was going to be comfortable for too long. For other people in the audience, this solution was easily solved by getting up often throughout the performance and getting drinks. Again, fine for a bar. Not so fine for a theatre.
It's really a shame that the venue is such a let down, because there is a really great show here. While Ntozeke Shange's script has never been my favorite, and has never struck me as being as widely accessible and effective as a show like "The Vagina Monolgues," there are some real highlights here. Sherly M. Daceus (Lady in Red) and particularly Delicia Dunham (Lady in Brown) are at times funny, thrilling, inspiring, and heartbreaking. The entire ensemble of actresses bring an engaging, inspiring performance as they unveil the "coreopoems" about sex, love, heartache and fighting to survive in a world that does its best to keep you down.
One person that needs special mention in this production is Choreographer Shawn Quinlan. He may be white, and he may be male, but that white guy can sure teach some dancing. The dancing that runs throughout the production brings such a fierceness and vitality. It takes the sometimes lyrical poems into a world that is raw and gritty and sexy. Quinlan's choreography (not to mention the talented dancing by the entire cast), takes this production to an entirely different level.
"For Colored Girls" is about to get a very high profile adaptation by Tyler Perry in a film set to come out next year. I make no effort to hide my rather intense dislike for Tyler Perry. "For Colored Girls" is a show about raw intensity. About primal urges and the extreme will to survive. When put through Tyler Perry's watered down direction, I don't feel that it will come close to being what it really should be. So the bottom line is, if this show is on your radar for any reason, then InnateVolution's production is bound to be more effective than the film version will be. Plus, admission comes with 2 drinks, and that just may make the bar stools a little more comfortable.
"For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf", directed by Toma Tavares Langston, runs Thursday-Saturday through June 26, 2010. No show June 24. All performances begin at 8pm at The Call (1547 W. Bryn Mawr Ave). Tickets are $20 and include two drinks. Must be 21 or over to attend.