Helen Hayes Award-winner, Iyona Blake, has given us a love letter to sisters, family, and staying the course. One of the DMV’s most talented actors, singers and playwrights, Blake has written a play that rings true—it is funny, heartbreaking, and offers hope for tomorrow. That’s quite a gift from this “Bold New Works” premiere from Creative Cauldron.
…like coming home to the safety we all need, and Creative Cauldron, with this profoundly professional cast and crew, has delivered unreservedly. It’s ultimately a joyful journey.
The play takes us through several seasons in one family’s life after the mother of the four sisters dies. We first meet them as they gather to finalize a schedule to go through their mother’s belongings and pick what they would like to have to remember her. Nadine (Andrea Gerald), the eldest and the most financially successful as a corporate money type, is all business and sharp edges. Ingrid (Cameron Dashiell) is a preacher’s wife who is the conscience and heart of the family. Kimberly (Corisa Myers) is a professor who is hiding her financial difficulties with the IRS. Leah (Ayana Ogunsunlade) is the youngest and the owner of a cannabis and herbalist shop. She’s also a cousin actually, who was rescued as a very young child by the sisters’ mother and enfolded into the family. We watch these four strong, vulnerable, intelligent, and beautiful women go through a lot of changes.
The script doesn’t shy away from facing up to financial difficulties, alcoholism, infidelity, racism, cancer, sexual assault, and hurt feelings. These sisters bicker, snipe, and know every last button to push, but they are bedrock solid and it shows. Of course, it might take them a while to get to that bedrock at times, but they do. That is one of the most beautiful things about this play—forgiveness and compassion is possible, plus they actually like each other. They can hold each other in check in the most loving of ways, even when delivering a sharp reproof.
One of the other admirable things about this work is the way the scenic design sets the mood of the play. There is a warmth to Margie Jervis’ vision that gives whomever enters that kitchen a respite from what’s happening everywhere else in their lives. It reflects the bond among the sisters that home is indeed where the heart is.
Now for the men. As Jeremy Foster, Ingrid’s preacher husband, DeCarlo Jarrell Raspberry has quite a few layers. Watching him learn to be held accountable is quite satisfying. Russell Rinker plays Andrew Barrett, an unexpected love interest of Nadine’s, and he ends up as one of the most unexpectedly stalwart characters of the piece. Blake has given us a thoughtful portrayal of this character, and Rinker gives the role a strong foundation of sincerity and complexity.
The final character is Emma (Jen Drake), the nurse we wish we could all have when struggling with a debilitating, dignity-robbing disease. Even that part shows a growth arc and watching Drake and Gerald’s development together is an unexpected delight.
Gerald, Dashiell, Myers, and Ogunsunlade are so accomplished they simply inhabit these women. Whether it’s Nadine’s no-emotion, no-nonsense energy; Leah’s wry commentary on the (slightly) older generation and belief in herself; Ingrid’s firm boundaries in the safety net she weaves; or Kimberly’s determination to not be a burden on her family, their characters are complicated and real. You are invested in them from the beginning.
Blake is also the director as well as the playwright, and she has done a sterling job in giving these actors the parameters of the role and trusting them. Costume designer Darrell Clark has done a superb job in putting together the clothing that highlights their personalities and their financial statutes and ages. And the tailoring is impeccable. Lighting design is by Venus Gulbranson and the music supervisor is Greg Watkins.
On opening night, this show received a resounding standing ovation and deservedly so. “Girls of Madison Street” is like coming home to the safety we all need, and Creative Cauldron, with this profoundly professional cast and crew, has delivered unreservedly. It’s ultimately a joyful journey.
Running Time: Approximately two hours and 15 minutes including a 15-minute intermission.
Show Advisory: Adult themes, some adult language.
“Girls of Madison Street” runs through March 6, 2022, at Creative Cauldron, 410 South Maple Avenue, Retail 116, Falls Church, VA 22046; For information and ticket, call 03-436-9948 or go online.
COVID-19 Health and Safety: Proof of vaccination or recent negative test and masks are required.