Not since Ntozake Shange's 1976 groundbreaking play, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/ When the Rainbow is Enuf, has such a powerful ensemble of black women taken the stage to tell their stories as can be seen in trey anthony's 'da Kink in My Hair.
The play's structure investigates the metaphor of a black woman and the care of her hair be it natural, braded, permed or completely shaved scalp - and discovers within it a wonderful variety of levels and complexities that speaks directly to the black diaspora in North America. The play takes place in a black hair salon where Novelette, the owner (played by trey anthony), deals with the day to day trials of running her business and tending to the competing needs of her clients. The venue is an interesting choice and just shows how one can take the locale of a black establishment (as found in Ice Cube's recent films Barbershop (1 & 2) and lift the material from the level of broadband comedy to dramatic art.
There are a number of stand-out performances that, like Shange's play, come by way of a series of monologues neatly highlighted but never overwhelmed by Rebecca Picherack's lighting design.
Ordena Stephens-Thompson is profoundly moving as the mother of a son who dies from random violence in the community. Raven Dauda is the actress who has made it in Hollywood but still needs the warmth of her hometown community, perhaps because she has lost ties with her own family who cannot accept her sexual orientation as a lesbian. d'bi.young builds upon (and expands) her previous work with ahdri zhina mandiela's production of rock.paper.sistahz, as the young girl who is sexually molested. And Miranda Edwards is striking as the bright and cynical business woman (with a Ph.D. in economics from Yale) who is a role model exhausted by the role she is constantly required to play.
This is not to diminish the work of the rest of the cast, because in the end it is the ensemble that carries the musical numbers (of which there are several) and the dramatic elements to create such a superb piece of theatre
'da Kink in My Hair emerged out of the Toronto Fringe Festival several years ago and was then staged successfully by Theatre Passe Muraille in 2003. It is once again to the great credit of the Mirvish organization to bring this play to the mainstage of the Princess of Wales Theatre so that it might enjoy the wider audience that it so richly deserves.
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