BWW Review: Patricia Ione Lloyd's Chilling and Evocative EVE'S SONG Honors The Spirits of Real-Life Murdered Black Women
"Cuddles the puppy had fallen into the 50 foot deep well and was trapped," an unseen television anchor is heard reporting at the outset of Patricia Ione Lloyd's chilling and evocative EVE'S SONG. "After 30 hours volunteers rescued Cuddles from near death," she continues. "Locals are demanding stricter standards on well construction. The mayor's office will be holding a town hall meeting to address their concerns."
Her voice then lightens in tone and, almost as an afterthought, she reports of an unarmed black man who is in critical condition after being shot by a police officer.
But such concerns will have to wait in the household run by divorced mom and corporate vice-president Deborah (De'Adre Aziza). It's dinner time, so she snatches the remote from her teenage son Mark (Karl Green), a geeky kid who's practicing a "thug walk" to look cool. When joined by her college student daughter Lauren (Kadijah Raquel), who Mark teases for being lesbian, their dinner conversation is limited to pleasant topics like what happened at school today, how delicious the salmon is and plans for a family movie night.
The words "thank you" and "please" are essential, as is pushing in your chair and the proper use of a cloth napkin.
With the kids' father having only recently moved out, Deborah is determined to provide her children with a healthy, normal family environment; so much so that she puts up with the casual racism and sexism she experiences on the job.
"Our home is our safe place," she calmly assures them. "Nothing bad can happen to us within these four walls."
A copy of Ellis Wilson's painting "Funeral Procession," is displayed behind them.
Also inhabiting the home, though unnoticeable to the family, are three spirit dancers representing real-life black women who were randomly murdered. Each has a moment to tell their story.
"I knew when people found out I was trans I would end up dead," says Amia Tyrae Berryman (Tamara M. Williams).
Kerrice Lewis (Rachel Watson-Jih) recalls the last sound she heard, after being set on fire in the trunk of a car, was her phone playing the special ringtone that meant her ex-girlfriend was calling.
"I was almost 100 years old," explains Kathryn Johnston (Vernice Miller), who was killed by police in what was described as a botched drug raid.
Nevertheless, the playwright assures in her notes that that EVE'S SONG is a comedy, though a dark one. ("When the world is against us, we must find a reason to smile.") And yes, much of the play is funny, in a gentle, realistic way, with director Jo Bonney helming an excellent cast.
There's certainly a lighthearted sweetness to the immediate attraction between Lauren and activist Upendo (Ashley D. Kelley), who invites her to a community organizing meeting for their first date.
It's Upendo who explains how Eve is the name given to the first African woman who all of humanity can be traced back to, and how all souls are born with a personal song that can get them through life's troubles.
What happens when Upendo inspires a change in Deborah's attitude is best told by the author.