EAST SACRAMENTO — During a Sunday matinee performance, the cast members of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye were ultra-compelling in bringing the characters alive on stage.
An adaption by Lydia Diamond of Morrison’s first novel, that was published in 1970, director James Wheatley was able to find an ensemble of talented actors to pull off a tragic story that deals with ongoing Black issues.
The actors, 12 in all, performed in front of sellout crowd that was not disappointed by any means. The stage play runs until June 14 and may possibly be the local spring hit in 2014.
Set in 1941 Ohio, maybe the south end of the state that borders Kentucky, the story circles around dark skin, brown eyes Pecola Breedlove (played by Carol Jefferson), an 11-year-old Black girl who is an outcast and is seemingly convinced that she is “ugly.”
Pecola believes having blue eyes would improve her appearance and status in society. “I pray to God every night to deliver my blue eyes,” Pecola laments.
Pecola has two young friends, Claudia (Brooklynn Solomon) and Freida (Eliza Hendrix) MacTeer that “feel sorry” for her and Pecola’s parents Cholly Breedlove (Zarati M. Depaz) and Mrs. Breedlove (KT Masala).
While describing the Breedloves, Claudia and Frieda, with no shame, explain that the “Ugly Breed Loves also had an ugly life.” They would also learn later that the Breedloves were hiding a terrible secret that gets exposed in the worst of ways.
The most glaring feature of the play is how it’s told magnificently in first and third person. This method is cleverly done by Solomon, Hendrix, and Tarig Elsiddig who plays the young MacTeers’s father and a character by the name of “Soaphead Church.”
The chemistry between Solomon, Hendrix, and Jefferson is powerful and masterfully in sync, which is telling because the ladies are playing preteens.
The play hits a higher level of intensity when Andrea Covington, who portrays the character Maureen Peal, causes dessention among Claudia and Freida.
As manifested by these four thespians, and the other eight actors in the play, not one line was flubbed. If an error did occur, it was untraceable. Especially when Solomon and Elsiddig deliver their share of voluminous lines.
They had the bulk of the narration and dialogues in play. In addition, Solomon and Elsiddig also have great voices that churns out precise articulation.
Masala, Mardres Story, Betty Cummings, Jannette McCoy, Debbie Reeves, and Marivel Palone skillfully made the best of their stage work as well.
It’s plainly clear that director Wheatley made sure none of these actors upstage the other. It was also surprising to find that many of the actors remained “in character” after the play ended.
Morrison’s first book eventually won a Pulitzer Prize for Literature. In The Bluest Eye, the author conveys a story that deals with racism, self-hatred, eccentricity, and child abuse.
Morrison also explores humans’ obsession with beauty and perfection. The social themes in the book and play are unavoidable and highly necessary.
The cast for this adaption clung on to those topics, and then practically made the viewers read Toni Morrison’s book through Lydia Diamond’s play. Now that’s pure acting.
The Bluest Eyes runs until June 14 at 8:00 p.m., Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (Thursday’s show is $8.00).
The show starts at 2:00 p.m. on Sundays. General admission is $15, $13 for seniors and students, and $10 for children 12 and under.
Celebration Arts Theatre is located at 4469 D Street in East Sacramento. For more information, call (916) 455-2787.
By Antonio Harvey
OBSERVER Staff Writer