Review: Beauty’s Daughter (American Blues Theater)

| July 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

Wandachristine stars in Beauty's Daughter by Dael Orlandersmith, American Blues Theater 1          
      

  

Beauty’s Daughter

Written by Dael Orlandersmith 
at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont (map)
thru Aug 5  |  tix: $19-$49  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     


    
  

A production, and performance, bursting with humanity

  

Wandachristine stars in Beauty's Daughter by Dael Orlandersmith, American Blues Theater 3

    
American Blues Theater presents
    
Beauty’s Daughter

Review by Catey Sullivan

With transcendent one-woman shows including The Gimmick and Black ‘n Blue Boys/ Broken Men, Dael Orlandersmith long ago emerged as a vital American troubadour. When she writes about growing up in Harlem, the stories are sharp as broken glass, tales that carry a brutal, vivid rush that makes the Harlem of her youth as real as breath.

Wandachristine stars in Beauty's Daughter by Dael Orlandersmith, American Blues Theater 5With Beauty’s Daughter, Orlandersmith returns to the broken beauty of the neighborhood where she came of age. American Blues Theater’s production of the 80-minute piece illuminates a host of intensely memorable characters while weaving a story of a place where the price of escape is a lifetime weighted by memories of those left behind. Beauty’s Daughter evokes the haunting tales of Nelson Algren while at the same time standing wholly on the sublime originality of Orlandersmith’s peerless voice.

Directed by Ron OJ Parson, ABT’s staging stars Wandachristine, who plays both “Diane” (Orlandersmith’s alter-ego in the play) and an indelible parade of Harlem residents. And while Wandachristine is not Orlandersmith, she makes the playwright’s words resonate with power and truth.

The Harlem of Beauty’s Daughter is not a place of effortless happiness or serenity or hope, but neither is it a place of relentless ugliness and despair. In Orlandersmith’s depiction of characters who people the community, Beauty’s Daughter is marked by light and laughter, even at its darkest moments.

Wandachristine’s compelling performance is a the pulsing heart of the piece. She contains multitudes: A seemingly simple change of hat, posture or inflection, and the actor morphs into characters ranging from a high school student wheedling for a little too much help finishing a term paper to a crude middle-aged Italian man wheedling for sex. Beauty’s Daughter ultimately coalesces into a living mosaic, each of the many souls that cross the stage create a piece in it.

Wandachristine stars in Beauty's Daughter by Dael Orlandersmith, American Blues Theater 2 Wandachristine stars in Beauty's Daughter by Dael Orlandersmith, American Blues Theater 6Wandachristine stars in Beauty's Daughter by Dael Orlandersmith, American Blues Theater 1

“Diane” is both narrator and thru-line; it’s through her gaze that the audience meets the denizens of Harlem. When Diane speaks, it’s as poetic as it is urgent. The pain and the fear that accompany first menstruation, the devastation of learning the man you love doesn’t love you back, the double-pang of fear and insecurity that comes when a close relative catalogues your failures – in Diane’s voice, these episodes are both intensely specific and undeniably universal. The interludes make Diane as memorable as the people she encounters.

One of the most provocative elements of Beauty’s Daughter lies in the connection between Diane – who eventually goes to college and becomes a successful writer – and the souls lost forever to the “crack smoke” and crumbling streets where she grew up. The only thing that separates “me from them,” Diane notes, is the books in her home. That’s a fine, harrowing line. And it’s a reality that imbues Beauty’s Daughter with a sense of loss that’s twined around its unmistakable joy as Orlandersmith both celebrates and mourns the people she grew up with.

Director Parsons understands the mingling of elegy and joie de vivre that run in parallel currents through Orlandersmith’s writing. With Wandachrstine entrusted with the words, the result is a production that’s bursting with humanity.

  
Rating: ★★★★
  

Beauty’s Daughter continues through August 5th at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30pm, Sundays 2:30pm.  Tickets are $19-$49, and are available by phone (773-327-5252) or online through Vendini.com (check for availability of half-price tickets). More information at AmericanBluesTheater.com(Running time: 80 minutes, no intermission. Note: Recommended for ages 14+)

Wandachristine stars in Beauty's Daughter by Dael Orlandersmith, American Blues Theater 4

Photos by Michael Brosilow 


  

artists

cast

Wandachristine (Diane, others)

behind the scenes

Ron OJ Parson (director), Caitlin McLeod (scenic design), Jared Gooding (lighting design), Michael Alan Stein (costume design), Eric Backus (sound design), Mary O’Dowd (props design), Paul Deziel (projection design), Artemis Steakley Freeman (assistant director), Wilson Cain (dramaturg), Cara Parrish (stage manager), Samantha R. Dzirko (production manager), Artemis Lynne (asst. director), Kathy Logelin (dialect coach), Cristin Carole (choreographer), Michael Brosilow (photos)

Wandachristine stars in Beauty's Daughter by Dael Orlandersmith, American Blues Theater

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Category: 2017 Reviews, American Blues Theater, Catey Sullivan, One-Man Show, Stage 773, Video, YouTube

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