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Review: STORMY WEATHER at Atlas Performing Arts Center, Sprenger Theatre

Stormy Weather, written by Sybil Williams and artistically directed by Timothy Nelson, is a musically immersive, cabaret-style performance, inspired by Shakespeare's The Tempest, that presents to the audience to the tribulations of colonization through the lens of Sycorax (Michelle Rogers).

The play engages a multitude of senses and challenges traditional theater by tying into one non-linear chronicle, the tales of female characters from around the world whose voices have been historically omitted from public narrative. Michelle Rogers as Sycorax, uses her smooth narratorial inflections to introduce this theme, which is elevated by the phenomenal voice of Ariel (Nigel Rowe), who sings the thoughts of the women whose voices have been subdued. Ariel's vocal range is nothing but impressive and brings the audience on several journeys through music by Billie Holiday and poetic prose written by Sybil Williams. The ballads, complimented by the well devised light design by Marianne Meadows, cover themes of love, solitude, beauty, and more, and inspired cheers and ovations throughout the performance.

In a reversal of tradition and in alignment with the intent to highlight the voices of the women whose narratives have been suppressed, the audience does not get to know intimately well the male characters Caliban (Jabari Exum) and Prospero (Matty Griffiths). Nevertheless, their acts, supplementary to the larger themes, were captivating and humorous.

While the immersivity of the performance lures the audience into the story and the message is loud and clear, the plot is not. The ambitious, non-linear, multi-narrative nature of the play does not facilitate plot or character development. For this reason, the audience cannot draw conclusions from the stories told other than the message that is overtly presented: Much like Sycorax and Billie Holiday, powerful women around the world and across time periods have been disenfranchised, oppressed, and designated as invisible, and nevertheless, they persevere. Now, it is our job to listen.

Though faint in plot, Stormy Weather is a rich musical experience. I recommend this performance to anyone seeking a musical excursion that will rouse a range of emotions and leave them with a powerful message. This production of the INSERIES Theater is performing at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, Sprenger Theater until October 27 2019.

Review: STORMY WEATHER at Atlas Performing Arts Center, Sprenger Theatre

Photo by RX Loft.

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