In the summer of 1960, the metalworker Bird Wilson (Suazanne Darrell) takes in the orphaned daughter of her former lover. The daughter, Alma Jean Pierson (Ashley Noel Pierson), immediately runs afoul of Bird’s authority; the mother, Belle Pierson (Kayland Jordan), appears through a series of flashbacks. Meanwhile, Bird’s girlfriend, the loving and very-much-living Louise Sterling (Joyia D. Bradley), takes care of the details of the funeral and wake and does a near-superhuman job of managing the emotions of her severely taciturn partner.
The cast of Azure D. Osborne-Lee’s Mirrors is strong. In particular, Darrell’s performance is an exercise in restraint. Bird is vocal about nothing, and Darrell resists the temptation to emote excessively in lieu of speech. Instead, she is appropriately spare, and as a result the few moments of intensity come with greater weight. Furthermore, Natalie Jacobs and AnJu Hyppolite offer welcome comic relief as a pair of judgmental neighbors, Constance Jenkins and Mabel Mosley. Eyeing the neglected state of Bird’s living room, Constance quotes Gandhi: “Hate the sin but lover the sinner!” Both chiding and goading, Mabel replies, “You know shabby houskeepin ain’t no sin!” The facts do not deter Constance: “Well, it should be! I’m sure it’s in the Bible somewhere.”
Osborne-Lee should be applauded for depicting the kinds of lives that have often been ignored in mainstream art. Nevertheless, the writing suffers from an almost soporific tonal monotony; the drama plays out in a series of scenes with little emotional or narrative variation. Perhaps this is because the dialogue skews toward exposition and backstory, which tends to be related in the same cadence: exhausted, distant, repressed. Whatever the reason, it shields the audience from the range of emotions experienced by these characters.
Mirrors runs through March 22nd at the Next Door @ NYTW. 83 E. 4th Street New York, NY. 1 hour 40 minutes. One intermission.