Flyin’ West – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

New York Tribune editor and vocal opponent of slavery Horace Greeley is credited with the slogan “Go west, young man, and grow up with the country.” Many people, especially former slaves after the Civil War, sought help with healing from the violent conflict and heeded those words. Many African-Americans landed in Nicodemus, Kansas to start a new life and to finally establish a home and settle on land that they owned. The Homestead Act helped their resettlement, but it took courage and strength and a strong spirit to leave all that they knew, to venture off into a wilderness as a pioneer.

Westport Country Playhouse, until Saturday, June 16, is inviting you to come along with a trio of sisters as they establish a new life in a new land in Pearl Cleage’s “Flyin’ West.” It is a journey well worth taking. Share the sisters’ joys and sorrows, their triumphs and their despairs as they forge a claim on freedom.

Sister Sophie, a determined Nikiya Mathis, has a steel backbone and a spine of resilance. She will not fail in her goal to establish a good life on the prairie. To ensure her success, she carries a rifle with her wherever she ventures. Like a mother hen, she watchs over Miss Leah, a feisty Brenda Pressley, who has her ways set in starch and tons of stories she may or may not share. Sophie also looks out for her sister Fannie, a hopeful Brittany Bradford, who has caught the eye of a new neighbor Wil, a gentlemanly Edward O’Blenis.

The youngest sister is Minnie, an adventurous Keona Welch, who has already left home on the arm of a poet, Frank Charles, a forward thinking and opportunist Michael Chenevert, and is just returning after many years in Europe. Minnie’s return is welcomed, until the family sees that Frank is abusive and harmful and willing to go to any lengths to get his way. His light skin has given him desires to pass as white and a disappointment about an inheritance pushes him to unspeakable acts.

Marjorie Bradley Kellogg’s set is a fine picture of these immigrants’ world and all they possess and love. Seret Scott directs this wonderful heart filled play with a sensitive voice.

For tickets ($30 and up), call Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, Westport (off route1) at 203-227-4177 or 888-927-7529 or online at Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.

Come cheer on this sisterhood and root for their solidarity and spirit as they battle the dangerous elements, both outside and inside their doors.