As we enter the tiny theater, I see the set: all black everything excepting the simple grey blocks of various heights for added dimension. Already, I am drawn by an invisible yet perceptible force right in the middle where a spotlight shines. Empty. So far, there is no one there.
I feel the energy. Something sacred is happening here, it seems to say. Are you ready?
The space pulsates as though a circle has been cast. Being intimately familiar with Ntozake Shange’s classic, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf, I think to myself, “Yeah, why wouldn’t I be?” Although this was my first introduction to Word Becomes Flesh, I trusted it must be quite the piece to share the stage with such a classic. NOTHING could have prepared me for the nosedive into raw beingness that was to commence. This production is for those who believe in life.
The theater goes black – black as pitch, starless nights and closed boxes. Black like beginnings. All we hear is breath, not our own, although we are breathing with them. Then begins the rhythm of beating: hands against floors and body parts create the vibration of life, sending tremors through the floor. Lights come up on an orb of men, pulsing and writhing, rising and falling. They are the manifestation of words not yet spoken, yet highly anticipated. Director Psalmayene 24 directs these souls in such a way that we are engaged in a shamanic journey to meet the soul of humanity. He breathes into the instrument created by Marc Bamuthi Joseph, and five men become shaded notes of grey and black, a melody.
We are taken on a journey of the birth of the black man, in all his complexity and dimension – low resonating tones of beauty intermingled with tears, soul music and hip hop. But there is nothing more powerful than the VOICE of each cast member: harrowing and filling, vulnerable and tender, hilarious one minute and terrifying the next, like eye-gazing. Nothing is hidden. This piece is a classic leaving us teary-eyed, full of love and desire for deeper connection through understanding.
Time dissipates between productions (they call this intermission). It’s as though the sun sets and rises again on women standing in a circle – brilliant in color, bursting with song and hips shaking. Mouths full of candor and stories telling it like it is, speaking of love – lost, found, manipulated, misunderstood and resurrected. They are brilliant: red, orange, yellow, pink, brown, purple, blue. They are colored by society and experience, and their song is one to be heard—and felt. The cast members support one another like sisters sharing a common journey, spilling their life stories like accidental masterpieces—sometimes tragic—but art, nonetheless. Under the relevant direction of Helen Hayes Award Winner, Deidra Starnes, who starred in an off-Broadway production of For Colored Girls (directed by Shange), the piece is both effective and memorable.
These two productions dance together. They create and say, “We are here.” Award-winning directors, electric cast and amazing content blend to connect with the audience in the most intimate of ways. Clad with skilled movement and bodily formations that bring the set to life, timely humor and modern day wit, this dual production is history (and herstory) in the making, sharing testimonies of love, life and what it means to have one’s humanity “colored.” Trust me: you want to experience this.
Running Time: Approximately 2.5 hours with 15-minute intermission.
Advisory: Contains mature content and themes.
Word Becomes Flesh/For Colored Girls Who’ve Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf will run through March 26, 2016, at The Anacostia Playhouse – 2020 Shannon PL SE, Washington, DC 20020. For tickets call (202) 241-2539 or click here to purchase online.