This one-woman show is a story-teller’s dream, and Perry Gaffney, who wrote and performs it, is a storyteller. She can have you laughing, gasping, crying, nodding your head going uh-huh, and clenching your fists in impotent anger.
This is a brilliant, taut work that unsentimentally throws down the gauntlet of the experiences of Black women in America.
She draws us pictures through words as if you are in a painting come to life. It is based on a novel of the same which she wrote and adapted for stage. It’s the story of a little-known phenomenon outside of the Black community — arranged marriages with men who were usually community pillars, financially comfortable, and old enough to be their fathers or grandfathers. They may have buried other wives or they may never have been married. These men insinuated themselves into a promising young girl’s family and, knowing the economic hardship most of the Black community has faced in this country, groomed the girls and their families for their eventual “buying” of their brides.
In this story, Gaffney has created a composite character in Alice, a 17-year-old girl looking forward to graduating from high school (a family first) and attending college on the scholarship she has earned. But then she learns that she is to marry Luthern Tucker, the lonely, old family benefactor who saw her at seven and has kept an eye on her ever since. He also has a hold economically on her family. Alice is so stunned by what she is expected to acquiesce to, she doesn’t really speak at the wedding. There’s no consent because everybody in the community is in on it and she’s trapped.
But Alice will spend the next 20 years learning, growing and remaining fiercely herself until she can engineer a change. The girl, and then the woman, has grit — and she has mercy.
Gaffney is brilliant, playing all the roles. Her timing is impeccable as is her ability to shape shift into another character with just a gesture, shrug, or an expression. There is humor too. She is at her the best when she lets fly with a dead-on zinger, and most of the time, following up with, “But I didn’t say that.” We learn what she really said, but it’s the internal monologue that lets us know who she is.
The show is directed by Sherri Crockett, who lets her author/actress just shine.
This show is available 24/7 through streaming by The Essential Theatre, where it first played in the DC area in 2013. We are fortunate that they have brought it back because, as lovely as this would be to see with an audience, it is a special, more cathartic experience to really feel it when watching online.
This is a brilliant, taut work that unsentimentally throws down the gauntlet of the experiences of Black women in America. Everybody faces their challenges differently, but Alice has given us a woman to root for. Right now, in this time of on-going Black crises in America, that is powerful. It may take place from the late 1940s to the late 1960s, but it’s not dated. It is a stark reminder of the experiences and exploitation that have shaped the trajectory of Black women and what it takes to move forward under that weight.
Running Time: Approximately one hour and 35 minutes with no intermission.
Show advisory: Adult subject matter, racism, misogyny, and some adult language.
“The Resurrection of Alice” streams through January 10, 2021, presented by The Essential Theater. For more information, please click here.