Ntozake Shange’s play “for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf” is a catharsis for Black women! It shares the attributes of Black women–their love, their sacrifice, their devotion, their support of family and each other, but also their feeling of being marginalized and abused. It speaks of Black women not being able to hear their voice, but in doing so, allows you very poignantly to hear their voice! Black women get to be seen at all the points of their existence. You get to experience their childhood innocence and then the cruelty that the world holds for them.
Through seven characters only referred to as the Lady in Red, the Lady in Yellow, the Lady in Brown, the Lady in Green, the Lady in Purple, the Lady in Blue and the Lady in Orange we hear stories of unrequited love, betrayal, rape, seduction, indifference and murder! Black women and their self-esteem are commodities devalued by the world, especially by Black men.
The depth of Shange’s voice is bottomless! Black girls and women are connected through the ancestors and hold a bond which rejuvenates and sustains us through the worse things that can happen in life. Sitting in that audience with my 19-year-old Jasmine and hearing these extraordinary actresses speak the timeless words of Shange was an emotionally overwhelming experience. Often my daughter and I found ourselves crying, sometimes cheers, sometimes agreeing with the resilience of our Sisters and indulging in their moments of reflection and joy. There was a moment when the entire theatre burst out in sounds of affirmations and anticipation when the Lady in Green began a well-known and beloved monologue “somebody almost walked off with all of my stuff.” That monologue is a woman sharing how her man breaking up with her, almost cost her to lose herself—everything that is a part of her being and identity. And, what was worst of all, he didn’t even realize he had it. She was tearing herself down and losing her essence and was the only one experiencing this life-altering event! But, thank God she came to her senses before it was too late.
I love how this production has Black women proclaiming that they love their men on purpose, they are not sorry and they don’t need to hear the Black men telling them how sorry they are for hurting them, cheating on them, lying to them. They call these particular Black men out and it’s a healing feeling. Another moment that happens in this play is of course the horrific story told by the Lady in Red at the end. The story of Crystal who loved Bo Willie, a love that was to have a very traumatic journey and stunningly tragic end. At the end of this production I could not speak, I was overwhelmed with emotions that only allowed my eyes to water up, but the tears would not be release. I could clap uncontrollably, but I wanted to shout and nothing would come. Thank God my daughter shouted, screamed, cried and clapped loud enough for us both.
This cast of Ladies is absolutely unforgettable! Kenita R. Miller is astounding as the Lady in Red; Okwui Okpokwasili is moving as the Lady in Green; Stacey Sargeant is sizzling as the Lady in Blue; D. Woods is dynamite as the Lady in Yellow; Tendayi Kuumba is daunting as the Lady in Brown; Amara Granderson is tremendous as the Lady in Orange and Alexandria Wailes is remarkable as the Lady in Purple—signing her feelings and having other ladies speak the words. This ensemble has a connection that comes across the footlights of the stage and connects with the audience as well. We could feel everything they conveyed and often there were audience affirmations, anger and shock. What was also marvelous about this production being on Broadway is how Shange’s play bought so many Black people to the Great White Way. Our beautiful people were out in droves and the rest of the audience was a lovely mixture of races. But, everyone felt the pain, joy, uncertainty, sorrow and connection of the Black woman. Camille A. Brown’s staging of this classic show was absolutely brilliant and brought it into this century. These ladies are not in dresses, but wear comfortable dance attire. They dance in the forms of praise, hip hop and use dance as a means to express and cleanse themselves. Brown as the choreographer and director has taken this already powerful work to a new unimagined level of power! “for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf” is playing at the Booth Theatre at 222 W 45th Street. Please, all my Sistas go and experience this production, you will feel something that will overwhelm you, inspire you and sustain you!