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Review Roundup: THE BLUEST EYE at Arden Theatre Company


Review Roundup: THE BLUEST EYE at Arden Theatre Company The reviews are in for THE BLUEST EYE at Arden Theatre Company! Adapted from the novel of the same name by Toni Morrison, THE BLUEST EYE opened on March 1st, and will run through April 1st.

Let's see what the critics had to say!

Howard Shapiro, WHYY: Raelle Myrick-Hodges, who gave the Arden a sterling production of "Two Trains Running" a couple seasons back, directs "The Bluest Eye" with a keen regard for its displays of life's disappointments large and small, and its depiction of existing on the outside. The supporting cast is terrific: Eliana Fabiyi as a black girl from a more well-off family; Soraya Butler as a hard-as-nails mom, forever reprimanding; Chavez Ravine as Pecola's put-upon mother; Reggie D. White as her offensive, abusing father; and Damien J. Wallace as a charlatan soothsayer who tricks Pecola.

David Fox, Philadelphia Magazine: The jump from page to the stage sounds so easy, right? So fluid, so natural. Yet Lydia R. Diamond's conscientious but reductive stage adaptation of Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye - on stage at the Arden in a handsome but tonally off-kilter production by director Raelle Myrick-Hodges - reminds us how difficult it really is. And when that source material is a brilliant novel famous for its unflinching, coruscating power - and the theatrical goal is to appeal to a broad audience - well, that translation quickly gets stuck between a rock and hard place... This is not to say the Arden's 100-minute show won't capture an audience - the reception was very warm the night I saw it, with sighs and laughter at appropriate moments. But to me, it fundamentally isn't Toni Morrison. Like I said - between a rock and a hard place.

Toby Zinman, The Inquirer: I am disappointed but unsurprised to report that Lydia R. Diamond's adaptation, running through April 1 at the Arden Theatre, lacks both the coherent theatricality that would make it a play and the passion that would make it compelling. Under Raelle Myrick-Hodges' direction, the story proceeds largely through narration as the actors tell us rather than show us (a lamentable contemporary trend). The pace is much like the Dick and Jane book that the central character, Pecola, is learning to read. This childlike effect ultimately trivializes the immense social illness Morrison addresses, as do the attempts at comedy and silhouette and slow-motion scenes... The irony and perfect point of the casting is that actor/dancer Jasmine Ward is quite lovely and graceful, as well as being excellent in the role. The bickering sisters, Freda (Renika Williams) and Claudia (Nicolette Lynch), are convincingly girlish, and their mother (Soraya Butler) and Mrs. Breedlove (Chavez Ravine) are both persuasively driven to different varieties of meanness, having been disappointed by men and the movies. The men, who start out as charmers, become violent and lazy drunks (Reggie D. White) or con artists (the excellent Damien J. Wallace).

Cameron Kelsall, Broad Street Review: Although much of Diamond's language comes directly from Morrison's pen, it often feels lost in translation. On the page, The Bluest Eye stands as an unflinching examination of many harsh topics, including inter- and intracultural racism, poverty, incest, rape, mental illness, and the societal weight women are expected to bear. These themes are often muted or entirely obscured by discursive directorial and design elements that produce an unwanted distancing effect.

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