"FOREVER" A NEW WORK BY DAEL ORLANDERSMITH

BONNIE GOLDBERG

For playwright and performer Dael Orlandersmith, cemeteries can be a place of comfort and communing. She is fascinated by the stories that are trapped beneath the headstones and she associates with those souls, even terming them her family. That fascination and familiarity were particularly poignant when she walked down the paths of Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

There she immediately felt a kinship with the essences and remains of rock and roll musician Jim Morrison and writer Richard Wright and even older souls buried there, like Oscar Wilde, Chopin, Balzac and Proust. She calls them "my ancestors" and she has dedicated her newest one woman play "Forever" to their connection to her and to her world. New Haven's Long Wharf Theatre will nurture this latest piece on Stage II until Sunday, February 1.

In "Forever," Orlandersmith explores her complicated and difficult relationship with her mother Beulah, a woman who did not parent as much as punish, who was often drunk and abusive. This piece is like a therapy meeting, a cathartic psychology session to exorcise the ghosts, reconcile the pain and absolve her parent of the deep hurts she inflicted.

With the quiet strains of Morrison's music, surrounded by a border of personal photos for comfort, Orlandersmith opens her heart and lets her feelings pour out in a dramatic litany of emotion. She is inspired by angels and plagued by monsters and she wants to make peace with her past. Her search for family has brought her to this ancient cemetery in a great city of light and she is there to pay homage to those artists who have come before and forged a path for her to follow. These are her heroes and she takes strength from their visions, challenges and accomplishments. This memoir is a limited world premiere written and performed by Dael Orlandersmith, under the direction of Neel Keller.

For tickets ($50-70), call Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven at 203-787-4282 or online at www.longwharf.org. Performances are Tuesday and Wednesday at 7 p.m., Thursday to Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Let Dael Orlandersmith take your hand so you can enter her world and help her vanquish her demons and allow her to embrace the light, to continue to light her fire.

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