Feeding the Dragon – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

Even in a fairy tale life, there is no guarantee of happily ever after. A little girl has to beware of monsters lurking around every corner, If she wants to stay safe. For Sharon Washington, growing up in a New York apartment tucked in the top if a public library had the potential to be a fantasy come true, but as in all tales of imagination, one must constantly be on guard for the unexpected.

Hartford Stage has created a fanciful set, courtesy of Tony Ferrier, for Sharon Washington to share her unique childhood in “Feeding the Dragon,” a story she lived, wrote about and performs in an engaging one woman show until Sunday, February 4.

In telling her story, Ms. Washington takes on the personas of almost two dozen personalities who people her world, who made it so dramatic and real. Not the least of which is her father, the flawed man who literally and figuratively feeds the dragon, the giant furnace in which he stuffs coal to keep the mammoth building warm and safe. His addiction to alcohol often makes him the scary monster in her autobiographical tale.

Living in a library had some distinct advantages for her: while the furnace devoured coal, she devoured books. Her love of learning was fed by her love of the written word. She traveled many times a day and night up the five long marble flights to her tower, a fairy tale world that was strictly her own. Her view of the stars out the top windows was remarkable, as was the freedom of journeying through the stacks of books below.
She often felt like a king’s daughter, until the demons arrived unannounced.

When those demons descended and forced her away from her beloved childhood playground, we see a frightened little girl facing a real world of racial issues and injustice. Sharon Washington is revelatory in both milieus, always charming and lyrical, sincere and honest in her portrayal of her innermost secrets. Her storytelling is personal and passionate, under the taut direction of Maria Mileaf.

For tickets ($25-90), call the Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford at 860-527-5151 or online at www.hartfordstage.org. Performances are Tuesday to Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.,with added performances at 7:30 p.m. on January 28 and February 2.

Come be enchanted by Sharon Washington’s tale and help her squeeze a nugget of shiny black coal so hard she is sure she will create a diamond. She, herself, is the diamond she creates.

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