The Bluest Eye

Long Wharf Theatre
By Irene Backalenick

"The Bluest Eye," now at Long Wharf Theatre, manages to combine non-realism and realism to
remarkable effect. This joint project of Long Wharf and Hartford Stage is directed by Eric Ting, who has
created a striking piece. Though "The Bluest Eye" takes on the style of Expressionism (internalized,
subjective), the events are gritty and real. In short, this drama of the African-American experience is
internal and external, past and present, real and imagined--a marriage of many opposites.
Sheets hung on the line to dry define the lives of the characters and serve as a scrim curtain, behind
which the heroine appears, lost in agony and aspiration. As the story moves back and forth in time,
actors change personae and serve as a Greek chorus. It is a story told, not lineally, but in flashbacks,
staccato scenes, and its own kind of soaring poetry.
The tale, based on a Toni Morrison novel and adapted by Lydia Diamond, follows the fortunes of a little
black girl. Pecola, living in a poor black community somewhere in Ohio in the 1940s, struggles with a
battling and embattled family. She sees herself as ugly and worthless, a view enhanced by her mother
and the world outside. Limited contacts with the white world merely reinforce this view. She longs to
inhabit that white world-in fact, to be Shirley Temple, and, in particular, to have blue eyes.
Director Ting is blessed with a flawless cast-not only Adepero Oduye as Pecola, but also Bobbi
Baker, Miche Braden, Leon Addison Brown, Ellis Foster, Oni Faida Lampley, Ronica V. Reddick, and
Shelley Thomas. They are listed alphabetically, because none can be singled out as superior in this
working ensemble of players. If there is any criticism, it is minor-namely, that lines are often lost in
their particular (and no doubt accurate) pronunciation. And one wonders why Ting has chosen to depict
a rape scene with a downpour. The symbolism is unclear. But no matter. Characters are
sharply-etched, memorable.
Combined with Ting's vision, designer Scott Bradley has created a remarkable stage set which works
well for this Expressionistic piece. With a few props, the many locations are suggested-the white
woman's spotless kitchen, for example, or Pecola's humble home. The sheets, hung to dry, serve both
the story and the staging's technical needs.
Writers, players, director, designers have all come together to create a memorable moment in theater.
"The Bluest Eye," at Long Wharf until April 20, is not to be missed.

This review appears in the CT Post and a few days after Apr. 3.

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