Pearl Cleage’s gripping play, set during the Great Depression and the Harlem Renaissance, hits the stage on September 21. Blues for an Alabama Sky poignantly depicts the challenges of race, homosexuality, and conflicting views of the time. Average 4.5 out of 5 stars rated by various news articles and talk shows about Orange Is The New Black award-winning actress Samira. Wiley, who is the title character, was the center of attention in this crowd-pleasing production.
As soon as I walked into the theater, I was captivated by a charming scene as sincere as a 1930s Harlem tenement. I couldn’t take my eyes off it; the little details were so great: the apartment building with the fire escapes, the vintage posters and the vintage record players. K. Bingham, a drama teacher at Townley Grammar School, felt that while there was “a sense of grandeur, there was also a sense of smallness”. Unfortunately, the series I attended did not feature the famous Samira Wiley, and was played by Helena Pipe instead. Jay French, another drama teacher at Townley, said: “People were a bit disappointed that we didn’t get Samira Wylie, but having said that, Helena Pipe did a great job with a different angle to the character.” K. Bingham thought she created a “broken woman” beautifully; “she fought to be something or someone, and yet she fought for next to nothing.” I found the character very conflicted between her tragic cyclical love life and those who truly loved her. When the play was over, I thought, “An angel? What a paradoxical name.” In my eyes, she was the opposite of an angel (of course, I don’t want to spoil anything; go and see for yourself!). Although the first half of the show was mostly comical, tragedy struck in the second half, changing the lives of all the characters and showing Angel’s raw nature. Although Angel was the star of the show, many viewers seemed to prefer other characters such as Delia Patterson and Guy Jacobs. Guy (my favorite character), Angel’s charismatic best friend, was played by the hilarious Giles Terrero and was a hit with the audience. He exemplified the best qualities you could have in a friend and was the optimistic and ambitious beacon of the show. I sympathized with his desire to make his dreams come true and the way he supported the spirits of others in their hardest times. Delia (the one I also really liked) was played by actress Ronke Adekalueha. Being K. Bingham’s favorite character, she spoke of her “calm and collected personality, but she also wanted to be quiet and have fun with others, but forced herself to be more serious and thoughtful because of what she believed in.” . She thought Ronke played her very “playfully and low-key” and played her very well. I thought Delia was a very complex character, similar to Angela, but the opposite of Angela in terms of character.
I love how the play so naturally focuses on the lives of ordinary people in the past, unlike how other famous historical plays like Hamilton and Six (other productions I would definitely recommend seeing) focus on historical individuals who made great changes in the world in a melodramatic manner. I also felt that plays like Hamilton are so intent on making the main character a mere heroic hero, and in a way it makes it seem like they’re standing up for the main character, and in the case of Hamilton, for America. While Blues for an Alabama Sky is not only much more intimate, it also portrays the idea of an imperfect and flawed protagonist who, this time, is not the most beloved character.
When asked about the professional opinions of J. French responded: “It was extremely well-paced, there was a real range of emotions, it appealed to different parts of the audience’s feelings: it made us laugh, but it also encouraged us and gave us a sense of both hope and disappointment.” Meanwhile, K. Bingham thought 4.5 stars was the right rating, as did many others, but when averaging the scores through the 11th grade ratings of 24 students, it was reduced to 4. Many liked the characters of the play, but felt the story was incomplete . This was the opinion of Esther Soares, a student at Townley Grammar, when they stated: “The scene and everything was wonderful and the play entertained me.” Unfortunately, it just didn’t feel like a finished play.” They said their favorite scene has to be the finale. “I like the cyclical structures of the plays. Angel constantly portrayed herself as a victim, unable to understand the complexity of people. After all the trauma she had witnessed inflicting on others, she still lacked the awareness of her own criminality. I will say that Angel felt my pity and empathy in certain parts of the plot, and the fact that she started the cycle again at the end made the play really exciting and thought-provoking.’ When asked if they would go to see the play again, despite the slightly high price, most of the audience said they would, especially Victoria Azu: “it’s different from any normal play you go to the theater and watch, it was something new and interesting and entertaining.”Most reviews (including mine) of the production mentioned that it was a very meaningful production, both in its celebration of black history and homosexuality through the issues they may have faced during The Great Depression, along with other relevant issues of the time, but balances it just right with a nice amount of comedy and romance.I encourage anyone who hasn’t seen it to start booking tickets now, the last day to watch is November 5th!