The present’s motion has a fluid freedom that jogs my memory of a Shange line a couple of long-ago Solar Ra present in “Dance We Do: A Poet Explores Black Dance,” her posthumously revealed guide: “The drummers made me wanna take off my garments and rejoice the world.” That’s how a lot Shange lived in her physique, and so do the ladies in these poems.
Whereas no actor takes off her garments in “For Coloured Women,” Brown (whom Shange interviewed for that guide, by the best way) has a tactile, from-the-inside-out understanding of how movement is embedded within the play’s language, inextricably. And as meticulous as Brown is about choreography and connection — changed by stillness and isolation within the play’s poems of anguish, to devastating impact — she is simply as exact about textual lucidity and depth.
That features the comedy, as when Tendayi Kuumba’s Woman in Brown slips into the character of a bookish Black 8-year-old who, in the summertime of 1955, conjures an imaginary good friend: the Haitian revolutionary Toussaint L’Ouverture.
It’s a brilliantly humorous interlude, and a reminder that this youngster — bursting as she is with intelligence and particularity, and already searching for kindred spirits — deserves the world. That the world doesn’t cherish her because it must is considered one of Shange’s details about the entire girls in “For Coloured Women.” Thus the play’s enduring perform as a supply of solace, affirmation and commiseration.
When the Woman in Crimson (Kenita R. Miller, eight months pregnant and resplendent in a peekaboo-belly wrap) tells a male lover who doesn’t deserve her, “I’m ending this affair,” her itemized grievances have us totally on her aspect — after which she lands a terrific punchline. These actors, all of them, are hilarious at deflating male posturing.
Nonetheless, “For Coloured Women” aches with the strain between the eager for devotion, the will for intercourse and the necessity for dignity. Additionally the precariousness of preserving a way of self — because the chagrined Woman in Inexperienced (Okwui Okpokwasili) discovers, courtesy of “a lover I made an excessive amount of room for.”