Sunday, March 23, 2003

In the Blood (Dobama)

‘IN THE BLOOD’ awesome at Dobama

The average theatre-goer has probably never heard the name Suzan-Lori Parks. It does not flow out of the memory bank like Lorraine Hansberry, considered to be America’s best Black woman playwright. But Suzan-Lori Parks is a playwright to be reckoned with. The New York Times named her as "1989’s most promising playwright.” She has won the MacArthur Award, was the first African-American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, has been awarded two Obies (best off-Broadway play awards), and was a Pulitzer Prize nominee for ‘IN THE BLOOD’.

Parks’ writes plays that dissect the black experience in collision with a white-dominated society. Parks's plays have been hailed for their creative mix of fantasy, myth, and history, expressed in language that captures the sounds heard on the inner-city streets and in the rural backwaters of America. All of these qualities are present in the brilliantly written ‘IN THE BLOOD’ getting its Ohio Premiere at Dobama.

‘IN THE BLOOD’ uses Hawthorne's classic “A Scarlet Letter” as a stepping-stone for the tale of Hester La Negrita, a black woman with five children from various fathers. We experience Hester’s fears, frustrations, and elation as she confronts sterilization, hunger, living under a bridge, rejection, dejection, and falling through the cracks of the welfare system. This is unsettling stuff.

Director Sonya Robbins leaves no emotional leaf unturned in her staging. The scenes are riveting. The performances are honed to a high-level. Even the technical qualities are first rate. Bill Ransom’s original music sets the emotional tone. Todd Krispinsky has created a totally realistic bridge abutment. Andrew Kaletta’s lighting is mood perfect.

You will not see a finer performance than Rasheryl McCreary’s emotionally shattering Hester. Her pain is our pain. Her frustrations are our frustrations. She is magnificent! Victor Dickerson, Anthony Elfonzia, Renee Matthews-Jackson, Kevin Brewer and Cassandra Vincent are all wonderful.

Capsule judgment: Every once in a while theatre-goers have the experience of knowing they have experienced greatness. This has to be the case of anyone who has attended a performance of ‘IN THE BLOOD” at Dobama Theatre.