“Lackawanna Blues” is a theatrical masterpiece! There’s a master class happening at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre on W. 47th Street, a master class in storytelling, character description, acting and directing and it is being given by Ruben Santiago-Hudson through his one-man, autobiographical play, “Lackawanna Blues.” Santiago-Hudson has created a touching, beautiful tribute to Nanny—Rachel Crosby—a woman who raised him in her boarding house in Lackawanna, New York.
It is so engaging to listen to him describe how they met and how she came to raise him as her son. Santiago-Hudson endearingly introduces the audience to the disabled, poor and sometimes mentally ill people that Nanny would take in. He portrays 24 different individuals to perfection. Nanny was a kind-hearted woman with limitless generosity, love, food, and support. She was a mother to the entire community in Lackawanna, and not only took in people who desperately needed a home, food, clothing and money, but also took in disabled animals. Nanny had a strength in spirit that helped her to be a champion and a protector for the abused. As Santiago-Hudson describes the assorted types of people that lived in the boarding house, he lets each tell their story of woe, and the stories are quite captivating.
A seasoned actor, Santiago-Hudson smoothly transitions into the 24 characters. He skillfully takes on the physical stances, tones and mannerisms of each person and makes each one seem to be standing right there on that stage—and it was magnificent to behold! Nanny, for Santiago-Hudson, wasn’t just the woman who raised him; she taught him life lessons, supported him in every way, and took a pride in this boy who became her son, best friend and loyal keeper of the stories of her love and kindness.
A person like Nanny, who does so much unselfishly for others, should have their story on Broadway. What a tremendous tribute this piece is to her. Generations will know who Rachel Crosby from Lackawanna, New York was because Santiago-Hudson has written, performs and directs this piece with his whole-heart.
One of the truly marvelous aspects of this play is how Santiago-Hudson’s words flow from his mouth with a rhythm that gels with the guitar playing of Junior Mack, who performs onstage alongside him. (Also, Santiago-Hudson plays a mean harmonica.) Santiago-Hudson touched everyone as he gives a biblical affirmation to represent what Nanny’s life meant when he says following her passing, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” And that applies to Santiago-Hudson as playwright, artist and director. Well done!
“Lackawanna Blues” is a must-go! It’s a blast! And it has been extended through Nov. 12, so go and learn about Nanny and feel the importance of the light she shined on so many lives.
For more info, visit www.manhattantheatreclub.com.