Tantallon Community Players The Color PurpleBy Xandra Weaver • Oct 9th, 2012 • Category: Reviews
Tantallon Community Players
Harmony Hall Regional Center, Ft. Washington, MD
Through October 14th
2:45 with one intermission
$15/$12 Students and Seniors
Reviewed October 5th, 2012
Tantallon Community Players have poured their passion, love and vision together to bring the Color Purple to life. The audiences have loved it — the show has already sold out two performances on opening weekend — and they know what they love. The main cast is energetic and strong, the supporting cast help carry the story through and the music is fantastic.
Andrea Gerald plays a warm and sympathetic Celie, who starts as a poor girl with an abusive father who gets her pregnant and then foists her off on an abusive husband. As Celie grows, her only confidant, her sister Nettie (the vivacious Adhana Reid, played by understudy Tonya Mayo on Friday) is taken away from her by the cruelties of the men around her. As she continues to strive to find her place in the world, the Lord works in mysterious ways, and brings a succession of strong women into her life to show her the path to love and life.
One such strong, independent woman was Sofia, played pitch perfect by Shanice Jones, who was undoubtedly the sassiest, funniest, brightest person on the stage. She stole the show as she showed her onstage husband Harpo (played by Jonathan Randale) that if he lay a hand on her, she’d lay it right back on him. The show was stolen again as the indefatigable Rikki Howie inhabited the role of Shug Avery, the woman of the world whose singing brought her fame but no fulfillment. An uncommon attraction between Shug and Celie forms, and the two women find in each other the love they had missed in the rest of the world.
The set, conceived by Marilyn Weaver, was brilliantly simple. Gorgeous paintings of a field of purple flowers and a weeping willow tree brought both sweetness and weight to the stage, and served as the backdrop for every scene. The open space of the stage was utilized to its fullest by choreographer Taurean Maray Barber, whose moves filled the stage with energy and atmosphere. Only in the makeup and costuming areas did the show suffer from a lack of manpower, as the makeup ideas were good but poorly executed, and the costumes less than fitted to the actors needs in certain scenes.
Nonetheless, the cast sold the story. Each and every person was engaging and exciting to watch. The talent and commitment were obvious, and the interpretation a true inspiration.
Note: The show I saw had all three understudies performing. Also, the director’s notes give away some of the plot, which I happily did not read before watching the show.
“The Color Purple” was a hard novel for me to read because of the unremitting and graphically described cruelty faced by Celie, who’s putative father, Alphonso, repeatedly raped her at 14, stripped the resulting children from her, and condemned her to loveless marriage to Albert Johnson, a cruel older man known as “Mister.” Alphonso also deprives Celie of her beloved sister, Nettie, when she runs away to avoid Celie’s fate. Celie is left to find happiness in unexpected ways. She has no one to talk to so she writes letters to God about everything. The letters are wonderful and show Alice Walker’s genius in carrying the narrative of Celie’s world, as Celie blossoms with age, experience, love, eventual independence, and her connections with the people she loves and who love her along the way.
Celie comes to love Shug Avery, a beautiful but much used honky-tonk singer who Mister lusts after. When Shug takes sick and is brought into Mister’s house, Celie nurses her back to health. The women form a bond, some of it sexual, which brings love into Celie’s life. Celie also looks up to Sophia, a sturdy outspoken woman married to Mister’s son, Harpo, a slightly kinder man. Sophia’s trajectory is sadder than Celie’s, because she is not only beaten, but her rebellious streak costs her a lengthy jail term and enduring injuries. The Spielberg movie was beautiful, but omitted Celie’s letters and presented a somewhat sanitized view of Alice Walker’s novel. It treated all of the characters as flawed, but saw most of them as ultimately redeemable. I loved it because of the compelling scenes and remarkable performances. The Broadway musical wisely brings back Celie’s letters, written to her missing sister rather than to God, to carry the narrative, and this works beautifully with the book and music.
I have seldom worked with more talented actors, singers and dancers. The love they bring to the show is evident in everything. This is my hundredth show with TCP, and it is one I will never forget.
Photos by Coleman A. Jackson
- Celie: Andrea Gerald
- Nettie: Adhana Reid (understudy Tonya Mayo)
- Mister: Demetrius Durrell
- Sofia: Shanice Jones
- Harpo: Jonathan Randale
- Squeak: Alexa Yarboro
- Preacher: Jivon Lee Jackson
- Shug Avery: Rikki Howie
- Church Soloist: Brenda Parker
- Church lady Darlene: Jesaria Glover
- Church Lady Jarene: Temple Fortson
- Church Lady Doris: Kristen Lee
- Pa: Darrick Johnson
- Ol’ Mister: Munday Crowell (understudy Reginald Grier)
- Buster: Montario Hill (understudy Mike Summons)
- Young Man: Willie Garner
- Doris’s husband-Julius Williams
- Odessa: Kareema Cockrell
- Goldene: Rosslyn Fernandez
- Daisy: Aisha Casey
- Guard-Jamie Hamilton
- Chief: Darren Hubbard
- Young Olivia: Aisha Casey
- Older Olivia: Khalia Alexander
- Sofia’s Sisters: Brenda Parker, Beverly Baker, Rosslyn Fernandez, Jessica Parris, Cheramie Jackson, Dyone Mitchell, Anita Byrd
- Ensemble women: Beverly Baker, Jackie Williams, Ada Parker, Whitney Curry, Kareema Cockrell, Tonya Mayo, Rosslyn Fernandez, Aisha Casey, Rashida Bandy, Jessica Parris, Cheramie Jackson, Chaseedaw Giles, Dyone Mitchell, Khalia Alexander, Anita Byrd,
- Ensemble Men: Maverick Lemon, Willie Garner, Montario Hill, Julius Williams,Darrick Johnson, Munday Crowell
- Children’s Ensemble: Jared Belfield, Ruth Hall, Sade Hall, Liana Berry, Alyssa Berry, Nasir Phillips
- Director: Charla Rowe
- Producer: Jivon Lee Jackson
- Stage Manager: Jared Shamberger
- Asst. Stage Manager: Jamie Hamilton
- Crew: Zylar Long, Aryonna Caprece Lucas, Tina Marshall
- Music Director: LaVar Betts
- Choreographer: Taurean Maray Barber
- Set Design: Marilyn Weaver
- Lighting Design: Sheryl Fry
- Sound Design: Ron Rowe
- Sound and light Operators: Harmony Hall Staff, Ron Rowe
- House Manager: Sheryl Fry
- Costumes: Rikki Howie and Valarie Holt
- Props: Charla Rowe
- Set Construction Foreman: Mark Holt
- Set Crew: George Roff, Larry Carbaugh
- Set Painting: Marilyn Weaver, Larry Carbaugh, Jamie Hamilton
- Conductor: Robert Rausch
- Pianist: LeVar Betts
- Percussion: Virgil Bowsall
- Bass: Dotson Burns
- Keyboard: Leroy Pressley
- Drums: Samuel Glover
- Guitar: Talyor Lake
- Percussion: Sadale McCall
Disclaimer: Tantallon Community Players provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/8726.
Xandra Weaver has a great love of the process of theater and the creation of art that has led her into working both behind the scenes and onstage. Her career includes working for many years providing sound and lights for both professional and amateur shows as well as makeup work for a feature film. At college, she specialized in makeup to earn her theater degree, and discovered a love for directing and playwrighting. She's also been a nominee for the DC area theater WATCH awards for her work with the company of The Producers with The Arlington Players.