Review by Jenifer Moore of “Blues for an Alabama Sky” Falcoln Theatre
Your blues ain’t like mine. Everyone is working hard to navigate this thing called life. While some are up, others are down. But despite circumstances, having a tribe to share life’s journey makes it worth it.
Well, sort of. Falcon Theatre’s adaptation of “Blues for an Alabama Sky”, by Pearl Cleage, reinforces this notion in a complicated, yet, endearing way. Set in 1930’s Harlem, the five-person cast takes us on a journey through self-sufficiency, heartbreak, and aspirations against the backdrop of the Great Depression.
The play hilariously commences with southern belle turned nightclub singer, Angel (Bryana Bentley), being carted home by her quirky friend, Guy (R. DeAndre Smith) and a mystery man (Elliot Young), following her drunken tirade toward her newly married lover. As a result of her actions, not only does she lose her job, but Guy does as well for having her back amidst the drama. From that point on the play twists and turns in a way that is equally confusing and amusing throughout the nearly 150-minute showtime. Guy, a gay costume designer, has dreams of traveling to Paris to cloth singer/dancer Josephine Baker in the finest fabrics he can stick a needle and thread into, while Angel welcomes any dream that involves being well taken care of. The troubled singer, out of an apartment and the wardrobe, is taken in by Guy who happens to live across from the demure social worker named Delia (Elizabeth Taylor). Rounding out the cast is the mystery name affectionately known as Leland, an ultra-conservative Southern gentleman, and Sam, the neighborhood doctor who has a knack for having a good night on the town.
The play is a delight as it is progressive before its time with its inclusion of a gay character in addition to one who advocates for family planning–in a church no less! The complexity of addressing these taboo topics in relation to the time and acceptance of the black community is a much-needed exploration. While the cast expertly handles the topics with care, obvious missteps with script delivery are noticeably awkward and stalling. There are a few notable moments though. Bentley is astonishingly part good angel part bad, leaving audiences yearning for more. One minute she is reeling you in with her sultry, smooth wit and the next undercutting you with crass and sass. One would say that she has perfected the role the second time around playing the troubled singer, however, it’s evident that Bentley has a natural inclination for the stage. Smith is the perfect balance for Bentley’s Angel as he rightly and often comically points her shortcomings. Taylor and Young show great promise in their debut at Falcon Theatre, while Holland, Jr. elicits a strong presence.
Overall, “Blues for an Alabama Sky” at Falcon Theatre would be an exceptional night on the town. The aspirations for a life beyond struggle will warm your heart. The production is a part of the Falcon Theatre’s 30th Anniversary season and runs on weekends until February 8. Tickets and more info are available at www.falcontheater.net or by calling the box office at (513) 479-6783.