Who: Redhouse Arts Center
Where: 201 West Street, Syracuse, NY
When: Through Dec. 20
Reviewed by Jake Cappuccino
The Color Purple at The Redhouse Arts Center’s is a shining and spirited production. The ensemble, the supporting characters, the main characters and as well as the makeup, costumes and the minimal but effective set design all had enough success to leave the audience with an emotionally satisfying show.
The Color Purple, based on the Alice Walker novel of the same name, details the life of Celie, a young black woman in the early 1900s south and the lives of those around her. Joan Anderson’s performance as Celie was lackluster in the beginning but she played moments of silence well, showing instances of quiet, contained despair at Celie’s predicament. Many of her spoken lines and songs lacked realness. That was likely a result of the difficult lines, written in the period dialect.
But by the end of Act I, Anderson had more chances to show what she could do and she delivered. Her righteous rage was palpable in a fierce Easter Sunday scene where Celie finally confronts her violent, disrespectful husband Mister, played perfectly by Carl Clemons Hopkins.
The supporting cast certainly elevated Anderson’s performance. Lindsey Warren, who played Shug Avery, Debra Evans who played the strong Sophia, and Stephfond Brunson, who played Mister’s son and Sophia’s husband Harpo, all kept the audience deeply involved. Evans and Brunson, separately and together, generated a number of genuine laugh-out-loud moments.
In Celie’s relationship with Shug Avery, Warren brought out the best in Anderson. Their best song is a duet about love. Some of Anderson’s best moments come out of scenes with Warren.
Acting aside, the supporting elements of the play hit the mark. The live orchestra, led by Patrick Burns, frequently blended into the background in scenes and shined during musical numbers, which is exactly what a live orchestra should do.
The ensemble added much needed energy and kinetics to what is frequently a sad play. Erin Lafferty’s choreography was creative for the small space and typically performed well though the ensemble’s synchronization was a little off in a few
Perhaps the most memorable part of the ensemble came in the form of three hilarious gossiping church ladies. The three church ladies, played by Tamar Smithers, Ciera Butler, and Betiea Bowers, would enter every scene or two to sing and make commentary on the play as a clever type of narration.
Some of the production elements need refinement, but for the most part, the play is well directed by Stephen Svoboda.
Overall, this cast and production will surprise you with its depth of spirit like the spirit of Celie herself.