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Review: BLUES FOR AN ALABAMA SKY at The Guthrie

Review: BLUES FOR AN ALABAMA SKY at The Guthrie

The production runs through March 12, 2023.

Review: BLUES FOR AN ALABAMA SKY at The Guthrie

Looking to take a trip to depression-era Harlem, where the clubs are filled with blues singers and everyone has a dream? Look no further than The Guthrie's newest production.

Blues for an Alabama Sky tells the story of two friends, Angel - a recently fired blues singer - and Guy, - an aspiring fashion designer with plans to make it big in Paris - who have suddenly found themselves living together. Across the hall their friend, Delia, a social worker with dreams of her own, has recently started to fall for Sam, a doctor at the Harlem hospital. As the four friends share their dreams and aspirations with each other, they begin to see that things may just be looking up for them. Soon after, a new gentleman arrives to their neighborhood and takes a liking to Angel, uprooting the "family" dynamic. As the new gentleman, Leland, and Angel get to know one another, she becomes torn about her choice to stay in New York where her future looks stable with Leland or jet set off to Paris with Guy, to live a life she has only dreamed about. When she finally makes her decision, the consequences catapult the group of friends' future into the unknown, leaving a wake of devastation in its path.

Pearl Cleage's groundbreaking play was commissioned by Alliance Theater in Atlanta in 1995 and still resonates just as strongly today. The themes of love, loss, embracing the unknown and holding tight to those who love us are shown to be universal themes. Through Cleage's choice to set the play in depression-era Harlem, the audience is allowed a glance into a bygone era of blues singers, fashion designers and the fight for rights that may have been considered, at the time and perhaps still today, to be taboo.

Review: BLUES FOR AN ALABAMA SKY at The Guthrie

Dealing with the intersectionality of race, sexual orientation, southern values, the push for a woman's right to choose her own family planning and the fight to achieve one's dreams, Blues for an Alabama Sky feels just as relevant today as the story it is telling about the past.

Director, Nicole A. Watson, has crafted a well thought out and gorgeous production that moves along at a breakneck pace full of laughter and cheerful banter before slamming on the breaks when turmoil begins to sets in.

Watson's use of space is her strongest gift. She understands that intimacy can exist even when two people are separated by physical distance. It is her way of drawing the audience in. She is not afraid to stage her actors in a way that some audience members may be unable to see both actors' faces for a length of time. Watson uses the entire usable space of the Wurtele Thrust Stage, both on stage and in the space between the stage and the front row. A useful tactic to show the audience that we are merely looking in on these individuals' lives, as if they are a ghost of the past. We aren't meant to see every facial expression because sometimes the greatest emotions come from the spoken word, which is where Blues shines the brightest.

This is particularly true within Lamar Jefferson's portrayal of Guy, which can be summed up in one word, effortless. The ease that Jefferson has in portraying a loud and proud, but determined, Guy is a true masterclass to watch. He certainly steals the show when it comes to the comedic portions of the show, leaving every side in the theater aching from laughter. Though, it must be said, that when it is called for, Jefferson pulls out all the stops to show Guy's "Big Daddy" side to protect the ones he loves, especially Angel.

Fresh off of her stint playing the Queen of the Underworld, Persephone, in the national tour of Hadestown, Kimberly Marable has brought her talents back to the Twin Cities to give another sensational performance. She brings a disarming quality to Angel that makes everyone fall in love with her but when she has to defend herself, Marable has no problem making it known that Angel runs her own life. From her opening line we are immediately endeared to her and as she peels back the many layers that make up Angel, we are just as devastated by her choices as the characters that surround her.

Blues for an Alabama Sky is the must see production of the year, thus far, and it will certainly stick with audiences long after leaving the theater.

Blues for an Alabama Sky runs from January 28- March 12, 2023 at the Guthrie Theater.

Tickets range from $37-$75.

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