Jill, Keisha, and Stephanie, now full-grown women, have been friends since elementary school. Or have they?
That is the question you’ll ask yourself when you get the chance to see actress and writer Danielle Moné Truitt’s play “3: Black Girl Blues.” In the tradition of films like “Waiting to Exhale,” “Girls Trip,” and “Soul Food,” and shows like “Girlfriends” and “Living Single,” the play’s creator Moné Truitt and writer Anthony Djaun have set out to bring us the wonder and complexity that is female friendship.
Recently, Moné Truitt performed the piece as a staged reading at the ART Gural Theater in Hell’s Kitchen, to a packed audience (including Moné Truitt’s “Law and Order: Organized Crime” co-star Christopher Meloni). She’s taking the show on the road to California this coming summer as a full-fledged production.
Like many plays, TV shows, and films, this one has been a long time in the making. Moné Truitt told Amsterdam News, “I first approached Anthony to write this one-woman show for me in 2008 and for the last 10 years, we’ve been workshopping, rewriting.”
Backed by a spare set consisting of a chair, music stand, and side table, the Sacramento-born and -raised actress brought the three characters to earthshaking and heartbreaking life, plumbing the depths of trauma, abuse, emotional abandonment, and neglect.
There is a little music—some hip-hop played for a flashback to a party scene—and minimal costume changes. Each character is differentiated by the tops she wears and what she has on her feet. Moné Truitt’s tremendous performance, though, more than made up for any scarcity of scenery or costuming.
Although each character is charismatic and funny enough to have the viewer often laughing with them, they most certainly have the blues; they each dissolve into tears at some point when they start to come face to face with the reality of traumas they have endured. Still, only one of the three starts to embrace the truth and begin the process of healing. The others shrink from it.
The trio present radically different personalities and live radically different lives.
Keisha has stayed in the ’hood, apparently not exactly by choice if we are to judge from some of her words and actions. She believes in the tragic idea of romantic love that demands loyalty in the cold face of emotional and physical neglect, infidelity, and domestic violence. She takes wanton violence against perceived romantic rivals as par for course. Said Moné Truitt, “Her flaw is that she feels she is unworthy. That’s the only reason why she stays with a man who has a baby with another woman, disrespects her, … beats a woman up in front of her child, and sleeps with her friend’s husband.”
Jill is a housewife and although so far, the piece fails to pinpoint just how far up the ladder of success she has gone, it is abundantly clear that she perches far above Keisha in life, as well as in her own mind. “Jill wants to be accepted so much,” said Moné Truitt. “She tries to clean up other people’s messes. She’s an enabler.”
Jill’s husband Darnell sounds at least as cruel as Keisha’s partner and in fact, as the details of their lives are revealed, may be the cruelest of them all. He keeps Jill cloistered from the rest of the world, on the tightest of leashes and budgets. Despite the veneer of a cushy life chock-full of suburban minutiae, Jill’s crushing loneliness is palpable. A surfeit of wine holds the pain at bay.
Although visibly successful, Stephanie has grown into a misanthrope. As we watch her reluctantly divulge the details of her personal life during her first appointment with a therapist, we see her loneliness is just as real, but of a different sort from that of her two friends. She seems to embrace her solitude. However, something sadder and more sinister may be at the root of Stephanie’s independent spirit.
Moné Truitt explained, “Stephanie is carrying around a lot of shame, so she’s going to achieve amazing things to overcompensate for the shame she feels because of things that were done to her as a child and things she’s done as an adult.” That includes a secret with the potential to do a lot of damage to Jill’s fragile emotional ecosystem.
At one point, one of the characters faces the gut-wrenching truth of how she feels about one of the others: “I hate her!” she screams. It’s jarring but not shocking, because these three characters haven’t yet come to terms with liking themselves, so it may just be inevitable that they are unable to like each other either.
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