Review: THE COLOR PURPLE Is Excellently Black at DCPA Theatre Company

Why paint with every color when purple is so royal?

By: Apr. 18, 2023
Review: THE COLOR PURPLE Is Excellently Black at DCPA Theatre Company

Why paint with every color when purple is so royal? DCPA's latest locally produced production proves why the color is never out of style in their mounting of Alice Walker's novel-turned-musical, The Color Purple.

In so many words, this production is incredible. The very definition of Black Excellence. No crumbs were left, as the kids say. Under the direction of Timothy Douglas, DCPA once again brings in the best. Music Direction by S. Renee Clark is itself worth relishing over. I'm such a sucker for top notch vocals, choral blending, and bold musical choices. Scenic Design by Tony Cisek was, taken as is, beautiful. Though, I couldn't help thinking, "Where's everything else?" It was effective but rather simple. That being said, the stage magic of the scenes behind the wooden slats and the tree suddenly in bloom were *chef's kiss*. Still, I gotta be honest and say the Fight Direction by Geoffrey Kent and Samantha Egle was less than convincing, but everything else was A+ work. Special shoutout to Choreographer Dane Figueroa Edidi and Costume Designer Trevor Bowen - I'm trying to get my hands on a pair of Celie's pants.

Where to even start with this cast? Every character role, every ensemble member - they all came to slay. As the church ladies, Christine Wanda as Darlene, Ne'Lashee' as Doris, and Domonique Paton as Jarene together prove that three IS company too! What I loved most was their individual vocal tones have their own unique, standout qualities and they still found a warm blend between them. Even aside from their musical skills, the distinct personalities were also a treat as they act as subtle narrators to the story at large, but not without some lite shade.

Elexis Morton as Nettie is sweet and soft vocally, yet strong in her character's convictions. Morton bears the weight of being the catalyst to the whole plot with ease. Torrey Linder as Harpo takes on the responsibility of representing generational change; a desire to be better than his father's example. Linder is wonderful in the role, having an opportunity to really showcase himself as a real triple threat thespian. Among the supporting roles, I think my favorite is Taylor J. Washington as Sofia. Washington saying "He ain't got no money" lives rent-free in my brain. You also get to see Celie's opposite in Sofia. Whereas Celie learns rebuild the fire in her own soul, we see Sofia carry a blazing fire in hers only for it to be doused by none other than what? Racism! Though not before Washing delivers a strong performance alongside the female ensemble for "Hell No."

In a cast of predominately female main characters, the limited men in the cast still manage to make a stance, even if it means you become the man we love to hate. David Aron Damane gives the role of Mister the real villain treament. Damane crafts and carves a real persona for the character that is consistent and multi-dimensional. As the iconic Shug Avery, Angela Wildflower is everything. From jazz-like vocals to the ups and downs of the role, Wildflower lives up to her own name. In the leading role of Celie, Maiesha McQueen delivers what is sure to be an award winning performance. McQueen captures the audience from the very start. As the show progresses and more characters come to Celie's aid, it is the audience who was rooting for her the entire time. In almost 100 reviews with this publication, this is the first time I have seen an audience rise to their feet to give a standing ovation for something other than the bows at the end of a show.

I often think, "Who is this show for?" Ragtime, for instance, is a show about race and immigrants but it is for white people to essentially have these issues put on display in a way that says, "Things you should not do." The Color Purple is for Black people, by Black people. It is among the most authentic of stories regarding the Black female experience on this, the planet we call Earth. As a white person, it was my honor to just be in the room while those around me expressed their beautiful Black joy.

The Color Purple runs at the DCPA Theatre Company through May 7, 2023.