CONNECTICUT CRITICS CIRCLE
The Bluest Eye

The Bluest Eye: The Impossibility of Seeing Past Color
By Amy J. Barry

The acting and directing is as exquisite and multi-layered as the staging in The Bluest Eye-Lydia
Diamond's superb adaptation of Toni Morrison's autobiographical novel, which ended its run at Hartford
Stage and is currently at New Haven's Long Wharf Theatre.

It is 1941 in a small segregated Ohio town tense with racial unrest. Amidst Scott Bradley's stunning
set, shaped by clotheslines hung with translucent layers of laundry, layered with human forms and
shadows, hints of other rooms and other times, 11-year-old Pecola Breedlove (Adepero Oduye) gazes
into a small reflecting pool. She prays to God to give her blue eyes so she can disappear into the
societal stereotype of white-skinned beauty. She prays to God to simply make her disappear.

The precisely-paced play, under Eric Ting's skillful direction, woven with Michael Bodeen's and Rob
Milburn's original music and sound design, implements the superficial rhythms of the Dick and Jane
elementary school primer chanted by Pecola:

Mother, Father, Dick and Jane
live in the green-and-white house
Look, look. Here comes a friend.
The friend will play with Jane.
They will play a good game

…juxtaposed with the rich, haunting refrains of Gospel music sung by her mother (Oni Faida Lampley):
Precious Lord, take my hand
Lead me on, let me stand
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn

Wistful and achingly sad, the production is also charming and amusing as Pecola and her best friends,
sisters Frieda (Ronica V. Reddick) and Claudia (Bobbi Baker) tease one other and play the sweet,
innocent games of young girls. The sisters also serve as the play's narrators-interpreting and helping
us understand their world. All three fine young actors exude their characters' strength, spirit, and
outrage at their lots in life.

Miche Braden is marvelous as Frieda and Claudia's mama-the strong, sure matriarch and although he
commits the horrifying act of incest, Leon Addison Brown as Pecola's father Cholly, manages to make
us react with an uncomfortable but very real mixture of both disgust and compassion. He is, after all,
as much a victim of venomous racism as is his daughter.

A scene that could easily be predictable is instead depicted more subtly and powerfully by a downpour
of rain drenching Pecola, weeping skies mourning this unspeakable violation.

Ellis Foster adds a surreal twist as the eccentric Soaphead Church, self-proclaimed reader, advisor
and interpreter of dreams, who writes a letter to God about a little black girl who came to him for "New
blue eyes…like she was buying shoes."

The Bluest Eye examines with gut-wrenching insight the precarious balance between what keeps us
sane and what pushes us over the edge, and the enormity of the repercussions of a larger societal ill
on the life of one young woman, who longs to be as beautiful and seemingly benign as her blonde
blue-eyed doll.

The Bluest Eye continues through April 20 at Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive (exit 46 off 1-95),
New Haven. For schedule of performances and tickets, call the box office at 203-787-4282 or online
visit www.longwharf.org.

Note: This review appeared in Shore Publishing Community Newspapers Living section on March
26-27.


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