By Josh Flanders
For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf, directed by Seret Scott a the the Court Theatre, is a powerful and complex work of theater, at once joyous and celebratory, as well as honest and, at times, tragic.
Described by author Ntozake Shange as a “choreopoem” it beautifully blends poetry, music, song, dance and movement to tell the story of eight women of color and the challenges and cruelties they face every day. Instead of a traditional plot, it presents a series of poems and stories designed to inspire the audience to tap into the multifaceted emotional experiences of each woman with enormous success.
The performance opens with Melody Angel as Lyric on shredding guitar, inviting the other seven women onstage, each of whom takes her name from a color of the rainbow (Lady in Red, Lady in Orange, etc.). A singer/songwriter/guitarist who made her explosive debut in Goodman’s production of Father Comes Home From the Wars in 2018, Angel is extremely formidable with an incredible contralto voice and commanding presence. Her songs are some of the highlights of the night.
The rhythmic, lyrical expressions that follow praise the power of sisterhood, explore the pain and heartbreak brought on by men, and illuminate the capacity of joyous expressions to keep these women sane and to find joy. They lament having to depend on others for love, as well as the real dilemma of just being alive as a woman of color, addressing tough topics like rape, abandonment, and domestic violence. Written in 1976, Shange’s script does not feel dated, and Scott’s production keeps all these voices and perspectives very current, allowing the talented cast to play upon their individual strengths.
The entire cast is outstanding. Melissa Duprey is sensational as Lady in Blue, dancing and telling a story about being in dance marathons and her love of music. Leah Casey shines as Lady in Purple (and as the show’s choreographer) in a mesmerizing dance as Sechita, named for the Egyptian goddess of creativity, love, beauty and filth. Later she tells a story of competing with other women over a man, only to realize their sisterhood was stronger than his unfaithful affection. Angelica Katie is wonderfully fierce as Lady in Green, repeatedly saying “somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuff,” lamenting how no one can realize her value.
Alexis J. Roston is delightful as Lady in Orange, rejoicing in the power of movement over words, saying “we gotta dance to keep from cryin’ and dyin’.” Anji White as Lady in Red presents two very powerful stories, one of the duality of her desire to be “unforgettable” to men while later kicking out her lovers and crying herself to sleep, and another about an abusive and unimaginably tragic relationship. White’s two very different performances are the most impactful of the entire show.
Scott said that For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf is “not just a play for women of color, but for all women.” Indeed, it is an important show for all people. One of the final lines encapsulates Shange’s central message: “I found God in myself and I loved her fiercely.” Empowering and full of layers, For Colored Girls celebrates women, their strength and resilience, and perhaps most significantly their understandings of self-empowerment, celebration of sisterhood and the opportunity for renaissance.
Court Theatre presents “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf” at Court Theatre through April 14, 5535 S. Ellis Ave. More Information and tickets are here. Photos by Michael Brosilow.