BWW Review: FLUID EXPRESSIONS' “SINGLE BLACK FEMALE” TAKES A MICROSCOPIC BUT FUNNY LOOK INTO THE LIVES OF SINGLE WOMEN at Stageworks Theatre
3 tapestry panels, of multi-color and tribal patterns adorn the backdrop of a minimalized set surrounding the story of two women of color in their 30's. The women subliminally named SBF 1 and SBF 2 enter the space and like a conversation over Friday night cocktails with friends the show commences. A 90 minute riff on Modern Pop culture references touches on several decades in the young women's lives. The 19 century Modern woman in the 1970's, 80's, and 90's are described through comedic and sometimes endearing vignettes. Fluid Expressions a newer Theatrical Company in the Tampa Bay area who's missions is, "Art for the conscious mind," chose Lisa B. Thompson's script for their season opener, and through solid performances by the two women, the audience enjoyed their evening.
To speak to the solid performances by both actresses Single Black Female is an entertaining riff on Modern Pop Culture, full of musical interludes and phrases such as "ABC....Average, Blonde, Chick.." Thompson's script lent itself to the light-hearted enjoyment, and an occasional chuckle or two. India Davison portrays SBF 1 and several other characters seamlessly. She was entertaining to watch and spot on from the moment she graced the stage. The ability to portray multiple characters in one show is a feat in of itself and India should be commended for a job well done. SBF 2 played exceptionally well by Simone Farrell was the best friend everyone wanted. She encourages you to shop till you drop, but will be the one to hold your hair back after a long night. SBF 2 was looking for love in all the wrong places, and Simone's performance came across relevant and endearing to anyone who's dipped a toe or two into the dating pool before. These two actresses should be commended in the rapid fire dialogue and the back and forth that was riveting from the start. A two person show can be difficult to watch, but these actresses fine-tuned their craft and made the 90 minutes fly by without a hitch.
Solid performances across the board by the two actresses I can say is what saved this production. There are times when moments happen in a production that make me scratch my head, and wonder, "was that truly needed to convey a story?" Intriguing productions are meant to spark conversation, stir the soul, and leave the audience thinking about the show for some time after. I always walk into productions wondering to myself, what will this leave me to think about on the drive home. As I walked back to my car, proceeded out into traffic I found myself not doing any of the aforementioned. I left knowing I spent the evening surrounded by friends, and other members of the audience having laughed and even reminisced for a short time, but that was all that I was left with. When the lights rose after the show, a couple seated directly behind me shared in the sentiment of reminiscing as well; probably from the well thought out music selections and pop culture references.
Again, I must reiterate, the acting was outstanding and the actresses should be lauded for their efforts on all accounts! For me the issues came technically, and out of continuity, normally things such as this can potentially be overlooked, but I'll make reference to a few here. First and foremost, a small screen positioned high on the back of the set, was a great idea and could have effectively worked if brought slightly lower and on a larger scale. Even in the 90's and years before, households featured big screen televisions, and this was slightly confusing on whether this was meant to be a tv or picture frame, but I digress. The screen itself was far too small and made it hard to make out what was being projected at times. There were a couple of times where lighting issues came into play. Some of the fade ins and outs were questionable and I was wondering if it was intentional or just a minor accident. As far as continuity is concerned the use of what looked like receipt paper to resemble money was problematic, and the use of a Welch's grape juice bottle in place of wine, was confusing. I was wondering why the label was never taken off. At one point I was so far pulled out of the wine sequence that I was left thinking, "Come on with the grape juice!" as the actress poured more into her glass. Some of the sound effects lent to issues as well. There was a scene with a prolonged sound effect and it made me wonder, "Why is this still happening?" The music in the opening of Act two seemed to drown out what was being said on stage, and made it hard to interpret the dialogue. Outside of these issues, "Single Black Female" had its moments both funny, with lines such as, "...man, woman, parakeet?", and endearing with lines such as, "...what is love anyway?"
The entire time I felt as if I was watching a reality show on Bravo, or an episode of "The Real" or another daytime talk show. All fluff and no filler is what I seemed to have felt on the drive home, and for me this was the most troubling. I wanted so much for me to be thinking about the show and the conversation it starts, but that "AHA" moment just wasn't there. I unfortunately had more of an "Aha" moment thinking about dinner on the way home. I absolutely understand that some scripts lend themselves to more fluff pieces than filler, and for that I condone that this might just be that. It was an entertaining evening that left nothing of spark when all was done. Imagine watching a film with brilliant actors, but so many other aspects overshadowed the brilliant performances that you just left underwhelmed, this was the case here.
If you're looking for an entertaining evening out of the house, look no further than Single Black Female being presented at Stageworks Theatre in Tampa through this Sunday. Tickets can be found by visiting fluidexpressionsinc.com or at the box office.
Photo Credit: Fluid Expressions Inc.