The stage is in the round, with some audience members sitting right up next to the performers. When one of the cast speaks, the remaining six sit and watch, rapt. Each of their dresses (created by Toni-Leslie James) is printed with the face of a female relative, blurring the distinction between their lives and their art.
In Leah C. Gardiner’s revival of for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf, then, the emphasis is squarely on the communal value of theater itself. Ntozake Shange’s “choreopoems” are elliptical and elusive enough to invite a range of meanings; thus, each member of the audience is required to fill in the gaps, often with supplementation from their own experience. There is something humanistic and egalitarian about this approach: meaning resides less in the play itself than in the play as it is understood by each new audience. Gardiner’s spare, collaborative, and inclusive take underlines this dynamic at every turn.
The artistic fruits of for colored girls are easy to see: the return to theater as ritual has been a matter of great concern to, among others, Aleshea Harris (What to Send Up), Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (Everybody), and Taylor Mac (A 24-Decade History). It is a pleasure to see its status confirmed in this handsome and thoughtful revival, one that remains committed in spirit to Shange’s original vision.
for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf runs through December 8th at Martinson Hall. 425 Lafayette Street New York, NY. 1 hour 30 minutes. No intermission.