BWW REVIEW: Oklahoma City University's Department of Theatre Celebrates Black History Month with THE BLUEST EYE
Jess here. There is no better way to start off Black History Month then by seeing Oklahoma City University's production of "The Bluest Eye." Based on the book by Toni Morrison, Lydia R. Diamond's stage adaptation presents a poignant story that relays the struggles of a young African-American girl growing up amongst a myriad of cultural inequities, many based on the overall lack of Black representation in society at the time. I really applaud this play, and writing this review was an opportunity I definitely enjoyed. I was deeply moved by the social validity of the piece, and despite its timeline dating back to the 1940's, its perspective is still extremely relevant in the 21st Century.
This production was delivered as a series of interactions, many through flashbacks, that developed the story's underlying premise of the level of self-destruction that can result from racism; a reality as seen through the persona of character, Pecola Breedlove. As a young Black girl who is forced to deal with adult level issues including discrimination based on looks and race, as well as sexual abuse by her alcoholic father, Cholly Breedlove, and lack of support from her outcast mother, Pauline Breedlove, Pecola's only wish is to have blue eyes; a trait she equilibrated with the prized status of being seen and treated as if she were white, beautiful and loved. Ultimately, due to her impossible home life, Pecola goes to live with a foster family, and gains "sisters" Claudia and Frieda MacTeer. While attempting to cope with life through a series of situations with classmates, community members and a local spiritual advisor, Soaphead Church, she undergoes a slow descent into madness, all the while internally finding her dream of blue eyes realized.
I'd like to applaud the performance of Alyssa Peters as Claudia MacTeer. She demonstrated incredible skill when tackling the immense dialogue requirement, with her role as the main narrator of the show being essential to the audiences' understanding of the disconnected plot. Partnered with Erika Felix (Frieda MacTeer), the two actors had a wonderful sisterly chemistry, and Felix's ability to demonstrate the innocence in her role showed how juxtaposed she was to Laura Kariuki (Pecola Breedlove). Kariuki's beautiful portrayal of an adolescent under the grasp of misrepresentation resounded with the audience, and influenced them to remain connected to her throughout the entire production. I'd also like to acknowledge the compelling performances of both Reoni Newsome (Mrs. Breedlove), and Darius Freeman (Soaphead Church). Seeing freshmen thriving in a mainstage show was really inspiring, and their age did not hinder them from delivering an excellent performance. Among the seniors represented were Taylor Blackman (Cholly Breedlove) and Sydney Blosch (Mama). Their training and talent shined in the show, and their capacity for powerful work was truly impressive. Evan Clear (Darlene) presented her role with incomparable grace, and watching her perform was very pleasing, as her acting choices and movements were exceedingly refined and elegant. Left to discuss are Brandon G. Stalling (Daddy) and Ashleigh Robinson (Maureen Pearl). Both actors utilized fantastic characterization skills, and caught the audiences' attention each time they took the stage.
"The Bluest Eye" has to be one of the most aesthetically pleasing pieces I've seen on campus thus far. The costumes by Callie Michaud were beautiful, and everyone's clothes were true to the era, as well as their characters' personalities. The scenic designer (Carleigh Wagner) and the lighting designer (Marina Oakley) worked together marvelously, as the stage was filled with abstract designs backed by beautiful shades of blue. I especially loved the usage of silhouettes with bright blue to accent them.
It takes versatile actors to present such a thought provoking piece, and this cast was the perfect fit. The director, Courtney Dibello, did a lovely job presenting such an important piece of art, and her directorial style was distinguished and respectful. She represented and highlighted everyone beautifully, with all roles seemingly equal amongst the cast. This production was a wonderful way to begin Black History Month, and will always be remembered as a stunning piece, both from a narrative as well as a visual viewpoint.
"And the bluest ink isn't really sky, and at times I think I would gladly die for a day of sky." -Stephen Sondheim