Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Trial of One Short Sighted Black Woman vs. Mammy Louise and Safreeta Mae"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2006 by Kay Bourne
stolen from THE KAY BOURNE ARTS REPORT


Negative Images Go On Trial

Reviewed by Kay Bourne in THE KAY BOURNE ARTS REPORT

Here's courtroom drama as riveting as anything you'll see on TV. In Karani M. Leslie's empowering play, middle management exec, Victoria Dryer takes on two caricatures of Black women from the Jim Crow past who to her dismay have lingered on in films and elsewhere. To the modern African American woman's consternation --- and ultimate redemption --- the women behind these pernicious echoes from slavery times refuse to allow the victims to be blamed, once again.

The enlightening "The Trial of One Short Sighted Black Woman vs. Mammy Louise and Safreeta Mae" gets a superior production from director Jacqui Parker and virtuoso performances from the outstanding cast. The Roxbury Crossroads Theatre production of Leslie's provocative drama continues through JUNE 9 in the Plaza Theater at the Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont Street, Boston's South End.

With capable actress Kortney Adams as the fashionably coiffed and clothed Ms. Dryer, the drama is perfectly centered. The ordinarily poised Dryer grows progressively alarmed as the targets of her distress refuse to accept her acrimony as a just response. Dryer is the audience's portal into a past few Americans have willingly entered. Shrugging off the history of slavery is, of course, the problem. Adams hits all the right notes with her well modulated performance.

In a sly bit of writing (or casting?) insightful actor Jeff Gill plays multiple roles which the audience comes to see are but the two sides of a single coin. The actor throws himself into both the character of the smarmy film director/producer called as a witness for his use of movie scripts that carry on the stereotypes of Black women invented in minstrel days, and, as well, the part of the blatantly racist Ole Massa from a Southern plantation who takes the stand. Gill's persuasive enactments are as mesmerizing as watching a slithery cobra uncoil from a basket.

The court is presided over by Talaya Freeman as the Honorable Mable Wilson who occasionally loses her cool but never her control of the proceedings. Marvelyn McFarlane is hilarious and very effective as the attorney for the defense, while Valerie Lee for the prosecution is properly broadsided by a turn of events she didn't foresee. Cristian De Jesus plays a number of roles with verve.

Valencia Hughes-Imani as Mammy Louise and Anich D'Jae as Safreeta Mae are excellent in roles which strip down from outrageous stereotype to emotionally painful realism. The process is gradual like paring the skins of an onion, paper thin layer by paper thin layer, until the core is bared. Through these marvelously intricate portrayals the audience can accept the shocking realization of what the courtroom actually is.

Veteran scenic designer Peter Colao has again magnificently accommodated the story with his craftsmanship and imaginative construction. "The Trial of One Short Sighted Black Woman vs. Mammy Louise and Safreeta Mae" is reportedly the opening salvo of an inaugural season for Roxbury Crossroads Theatre whose artistic director is noted playwright Ed Bullins. The company has set a high standard for itself.

(by Kay Bourne)
The Roxbury Crossroads Theatre official site - http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=vebpnacab.0.e7kvq4bab.jdgvx7aab.1368&ts=S0254&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.roxburycrossroadstheatre.com ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"The Trial of One Short Sighted Black Woman vs. Mammy Louise and afreeta Mae" (24 May - 10 June)
ROXBURY CROSSROADS THEATRE
@ Boston Center for The Arts, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON MA
1 (617)933-8600


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