note: entire contents copyright 2005 by Carl A. Rossi
Mother Shaw; Obatala, Orisha of Wisdom … Fulani Haymes
Mabel; Shango, Orisha of Fire … Michelle Dowd
Velma; Oya, Orisha of Storms … Merle Perkins
Wanda; Oshun, Orisha of the Rivers and Waters … Jacqui Parker
Jeanette; Yemaya, Orisha of Seas … Mikelyn Roderick
Yolanda; Ogun … Heather Fry
Man; Elegba, Orisha of Crossroads … Darius Omar Williams
Piano … Evelyn Lee-Jones
Percussion … Lyndon Rochelle; Jeffrey Morgan (alternate)
The season of Nutcrackers and Scrooges has already begun but should you crave something new that will leave you with a similar glow, consider CROWNS, a gospel-collage at the Lyric Stage Company of Boston. Based upon a book of monologues by and about southern African-American women, CROWNS is loosely held together by a Brooklyn girl with Attitude who, upon her brother’s murder, is sent to live with her grandmother in Alabama where she encounters women with “Hattitude”, i.e. their going to church dressed in their Sunday best, topped with a carefully chosen, proudly worn hat; the girl eventually trades in her baseball cap for her own personal “crown” --- her soul as well as her wardrobe has been nourished. The evening is gospel-rich but drama-thin with the girl’s story being put on hold for yet another lusty solo or ensemble and there is little pain to fuel the ecstasy but the singing is glorious and Susie Smith has designed dozens of classy hats, each tailored for a certain head and personality and offset with color-coded wardrobes of brilliant hues symbolizing African nature-spirits --- here’s a veritable garden of Womanhood, indeed.
As golden as CROWNS’ singer/actresses are, especially Jacqui Parker whose cool, blue flame has never burned brighter and Michelle Dowd, a cherished character actress who makes any scene, better, more than a passing nod must be made to Darius Omar Williams, CROWNS’ sole man who more than holds his own with his ringing instrument and his protean playing; a modest but sturdy king among these beautiful, stately queens.