note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Beverly Creasey
Some adaptations don’t do justice to their source material. They feel uncomfortable on the stage but Lynda R. Diamond’s THE BLUEST EYE, adapted from Toni Morrison’s novel, feels like it belongs there. The COMPANY ONE production (playing through Nov. 17th) is perfection.
Summer L. Williams’ remarkable cast inhabits the very souls of their characters. Two adorable, fresh-faced sisters (Tasia A. Jones and Marvelyn McFarlane) narrate the tragic story of a child named Pecola (the charismatic Adobuere J. Ebiama) who briefly came to live with them and remained a childhood friend. The sisters are young and innocent and at the same time, their narration is knowing and sage. Jones and McFarlane move seamlessly from living the moment to commenting on it, such is the beauty of their performances.
We learn the “ugly, untidy how of it:” Pecola suffers neglect from her mother (Talaya Freeman with the weight of the world on her shoulders) and abuse at the hands of her father (a surprisingly sympathetic Christopher Long) ---but the why of it is more complicated. As the seasons move backward in time, we find out that her father himself was brutalized as a young man and her mother limped through a thankless life, escaping only at the “picture show.”
Pecola, whose eyes reflect the misery born of a “violent, painful, lonely love,” is shunned by townfolk who would rather blame her than her father for the incest. Christina Bynoe brings a delightful vitality to her roles as the “good” mother and the disapproving and/or grieving neighbor lady. Pecola sees her only salvation in a transformation by God so she prays for the bluest of eyes. After all, her own mother lavishes attention on the white child she cares for. Even Pecola’s classmates seem to prefer the new light skinned girl (the versatile Rachel Hunt).
Director Williams choreographs some wonderfully funny scenes, like the upside down pillow talk and the upside down blueberry pie episode. Despite Pecola’s lovely friendship with the sisters, the story leaves you profoundly saddened at the sorrowful fulfillment of her desperate wish. Aaron Andrale gives a haunting performance as the old fortune teller/alchemist who offers Pecola the wrong solution “much too late.”