By Pearl Cleage.
Directed by Ron OJ Parson.
At Court Theatre, Chicago.
The spirit of the Harlem Renaissance id the backdrop for a outstanding story of the power of dreams.
Played on the fabulous two apartment set (designed by Linda Buchanon). Pearl Cleage’s wonderful script, Blues for an Alabama Sky, is staged with dramatic panache by director Ron OJ Parson. We meet the creatives in Harlem as they struggle during the start of the Great Depression as the Black Renaissance erodes the accumulated affluence of the 1920’s.
We meet Angel (the fabulous Toya Turner) a nightclub singer and her roommate Guy (Sean Parris) a proud gay man who dreams of designing dressed for Dorothy Dandrige in Paris. Guy supports Angel financially and emotionally. They have a strong non-sexual love.
The two live next door to Delia (Celeste M. Cooper), a political church-going serious social worker bent on opening a community family planning center in Harlem. Ever the shy one, Delia and Sam (James Vincent Meredith), a doctor who works hard and drinks too much. Sparks fly between the two.
As we learn to appreciate these folks we see that each must face their own hardships head on, but always with hop that a better life is at hand. If Guy can get to Paris and design dresses for Dandridge; if Angel can land a featured signing role; if Delis can open her clinic; and of Sam can finally find love – each will fulfill their creative life dreams. Hope abounds despite the economic despair of the emerging Great Depression. Yet Guy and Angel both get fired as the play opens.
Things change for Angel when she meets Leland (Geno Walker), a country boy from Alabama who recently lost his wife and child in child birth. He find Angel to look like his former wife; Angel sees Leland as a potential mate who will take care of her.
Their courtship is filled with tension as the Southern Black mentality conflicts with the Harlem Renaissance liberalism. Each character in this 2 hour, 50 minute saga have their dreams and hopes for a better life. Playwright Pearl Cleage fully develops her characters so that we relate and like each as we wonder what tragic events will happen to each. Without giving away more, let me say that the inevitable conflict will surprise audiences but is plausible. This is a wonderfully well acted play that has a cast that fully understands the material as a fine ensemble.
Toya Turner’s Angel and Sean Parris’ Guy anchor the play with Celeste M. Cooper’s Delia and James Vincent Meredith’s Sam each offering wonderfully nuanced and truthful performances. The acting here is outstanding and Ron OJ Parson’s fluid directing sets up the key scenes marvelously. Geno Walkers innocence and sincerity builds into rage as his world crumbles.
Blues for an Alabama Sky is a wonderful play, effectively acted and tightly directed on an eye-popping set with period-perfect costumes (by Rachel Healy). This is terrific theatre that demands an audience. It is a “must see” drama!
At Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis, Chicago, IL, call 773-753-4472, www.courttheatre.org, tickets $48-$68, Wed. & Thurs at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8 p,. Saturdays at 3 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2:30 & 7:30 pm, Running time is 2 hours, 50 minutes with intermission.