It is a long, LONG way from Queens to Nigeria, and from Nigeria to Vermont. Such is the series of journeys that form Caleen Sinnette Jennings’ Queens Girl trilogy of single-actor plays. Baltimore’s Everyman Theatre is now streaming the final entry in the series, “Queens Girl: Black in the Green Mountains,” directed by Associate Artistic Director Paige Hernandez and starring Felicia Curry.
By itself, this is a gorgeous piece of theater well worthy of one’s time. It is also a highly persuasive argument to see the other plays of the trilogy.
In the first two installments, we saw Jennings’ character, Jackie, transition from girlhood in New York to adolescence at the International School in Nigeria. There she endured more than just the typical fish-out-of-water ordeals, code-switching her way through a different world’s idea of the mid-1960s. As this installment begins, we find Jackie returning to the U.S., enrolled at Bennington College in Vermont. As one of only 12 black students at the prestigious school, Jackie must cope with culture shock, finding her calling, and absorbing the many shifts that had occurred in America during her three year absence. It’s a lot. She writes to a friend “I am overwhelmed by the round-the-clock whiteness of this place,” and the words convey an outsider’s genuine bewilderment.
The Queens Girl plays are rooted locally. Washington’s Theatre J produced “Queens Girl in the World” as part of the 2015 Women’s Voices Theater Festival, and “Queens Girl in Africa” premiered three years later at Mosaic Theater Company, again in conjunction with the WVTF. In 2019, Everyman Theatre produced both plays in rotating rep, and also commissioned Jennings to write this third play. This production was intended to appear in Everyman’s new second stage upstairs as part of a greatly expanded 2020 season. Then, the pandemic came. After a half-year’s hiatus this solo piece seemed perfect as a safe opportunity to return to the theater. Live performances were planned to begin in mid-November, but a late autumn COVID spike arrived. Everyman very prudently chose to punt the live performance, hiring instead a multi-camera video team to produce a recorded version for online streaming.
In the title role, Felicia Curry commands amazing dexterity, embodying a dizzying number and range of characters along Jackie’s travels. Paige Hernandez provides expertly unobtrusive direction, keeping out of the way of Curry’s fine work. A wonderful combination of by Lawrence E. Moten, III’s static scenery and Sarah Tundermann’s lighting design serve to establish many different settings without the need for cumbersome physical transitions. David Lamont Wilson adds a sound design which is brilliantly executed, understated, yet strong. Ivania Stack provides the costume design. By itself, this is a gorgeous piece of theater well worthy of one’s time. It is also a highly persuasive argument to see the other plays of the trilogy.
You can read our “A Quick Five” interview with Hernandez and Curry here. JV Torres’ review of the trilogy’s first play, “Queens Girl in the World,” is available here and his review of the second play, “Queens Girl in Africa,” is available here.
Running time: 90 minutes without intermission.
Single tickets for at-home access to “Queens Girl: Black in the Green Mountains,” the Queens Girl Trilogy package, and “Queens Girls: An Inside Look” (an artists’ talk featuring playwright Caleen Sinnette Jennings, director Paige Hernandez, and the three actors who portrayed the title character — Dawn Ursula, Erika Rose, and Felicia Curry) are currently available by visiting the theater’s website. In-home viewing is available through February 4, 2021.