July 2001
Special Summer Theatre Review : Blue

Special Summer Theatre Review : Blue
Theatre:Gramercy Theatre (NYC) Scene from Blue
Opening Date:June 28, 2001
Written By:Charles Randolph-Wright with music by Nona Hendryx and lyrics by Charles Randolph Wright- and Nona Hendryx
Directed By:Sheldon Epps
Cast:Phylicia Rashad, Hill Harper, Michael McElroy, Howard W. Overshown, Jewell Robinson, Randall Shepperd, Messeret Stroman, and Chad Tucker
Running Time:2 hours 30 minutes
Tickets Price:$55 all seats

While the Scene from Blue summer is starting to heat up and a few films are emerging as blockbusters, a lot of singers are taking the credit for those successes. With Ja Rule, Lil Zane, and Tyrese currently expanding their talent to the film industry, one has to wonder as to where are the real thespians. Well, look no further than to your local theater where some are working on their skills. Very recently, Sanaa Lathan and Joe Morton electrified the audience with their task in tackling Shakespeare in the park (Central Park, NYC) in “Measure for Measure”; and now another pair of gifted performers are radiating the stage in “Blue”, a play where the performances are top notch across the board and the music is captivating.

“Blue” is a comedy/drama about a well-to-do African American family that abounds with tenderness, acceptance and the search for unconditional love. Phylicia Rashad stars as Peggy Clark, a former fashion model from Chicago and the wife of a wealthy undertaker. Scene from Blue She does nothing but shop and pretends to cook exotic dinner gourmets, much to the chagrin of her mother-in-law Tillie Clark (Jewell Robinson). Besides spending lots of money and doing everything proper, Peggy’s favorite hobby is listening to the music of her favorite singer Blue Williams (Michael McElroy), an old friend from her past. While playing his music constantly, she hopes her younger son Rueben (Chad Tucker) will learn the skills to be a great trumpet player. When her oldest son Sam Clark III (Howard W. Overshown) brings his latest girlfriend LaTonya (Messeret Stroman) over for dinner, Peggy is quite disappointed. She sees LaTonya as a uneducated gold digger, but changes her tune when the latter says she’s also a fan of Blue Williams. They quickly become best buddies. Years later , when the grown-up musician Reuben (Hill Harper) returns home, things are not the same in the Clark household. Peggy no longer plays any Blue Williams music and her relationship with LaTonya is non-existent. Reuben and Peggy are no longer the cuddling mother and son that they used to be. There’s a lot of tension in the house and something from the past is still haunting everyone, including Reuben.

The Scene from Blue amazing thing about this play is that it is told through the memories of Reuben, as adult and as a child. There is always some sort of family drama in every household. No family is perfect. Some in-laws just don’t get along with others. Phylicia Rashad is very winsome as the domineering wife and mother. Her snobbish attitude is somewhat appealing and energetic and keeps the play falling apart. At times, there are more storylines that one can take in this play, but the performances and the music make up for that. Randall Shepperd stands out as the tolerant father/husband Sam Clark, who says nothing but keeps the peace in the house. The R & B/Jazz melodies by Nona Hendryx and the performance of Michael McElroy as the invisible Blue Williams provides a throwback to the 70s era when this music was at its peak and very smooth and original. If one is not into the mindless summer films we’re getting this summer, go see this play because it is well acted and entertaining.