February 24, 2024 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Bluest Eye a Grim Classic: Miles Playhouse Performing Riveting Southern Account

Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” stands with American greats such as “The Color Purple” and Maya Angelou’s books as a riveting account of an African-American childhood in the South. It offers less optimism however; painting a grim picture of the effects of racism and low self-esteem. Adapted by Lydia R. Diamond as a stage play originally commissioned for Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company, “The Bluest Eye” has been banned in some portions of the country for its frankness.

The current production by Phantom Projects Theatre Group at the Miles Playhouse is a fine mounting of this story. It’s too bad that it has to compete at this time of year with happy Easter and spring break entertainment, for it requires an audience that is patient and sensitive.

Adopting the novel’s technique of using one character’s viewpoint, the play is narrated mostly by a girl named Claudia (Tekquiree Spencer), along with her sister Frieda (Tiffany Danielle). Their family is poor but at least they have two parents and live in a house. They take in a temporary guest, Pecola (Sola Bamis), a lonely, homely, lost-in-a-dream child whose parents (Willie Mack Daniels and Shamika Franklin) fight constantly. The three girls become friends although the sisters often make fun of Pecola’s eccentricities-she is obsessed with a fantasy about becoming white and longs for blue eyes. The children take note of the seasons, the plants, the feuds and family backgrounds of their parents, the development of adult sexuality, and racial issues.

Diamond’s adaptation is very literary-there are lengthy sections of narrative by the girls and by other characters that are reminiscent of the role of a Greek Chorus. Pecola at one point even has a Greek tragedy-like interchange with her soul (Danika Butler) about the “bluest eyes” that she believes she has obtained from a charlatan fortune teller. Director Janet Miller, obviously aware of the talky nature of the text, has livened the play with pantomimed sequences and characters appearing in silhouette, creating a cinematic effect that enhances flashbacks and works well for a couple of explicit scenes.

Most interesting is that the three major characters, the young girls, are played by adults (Bamis is in Cal Arts’ Master of Fine Arts acting program) but manage to look and act the part of 11-year olds, wearing overly long worn dresses and ankle socks. Bamis is convincing as the insecure Pecola, whose misplaced values are scorned by the more assertive Claudia. Franklin, as Pecola’s mother “Mrs. Breedlove,” attains a quiet dignity in a scene where she scrubs a floor while recalling the difficulty of birthing Pecola. Daniels brings multiple dimensions to his challenging role as Pecola’s father Cholly.

There are moments of humor in “The Bluest Eye,” especially in scenes with the young girls as they try to understand the attitudes and behavior of adults. But the overall tone is one of sadness. Unlike Angelou’s and Walker’s novels, which take us through the lives of their heroines to adulthood and self-realization, this 90-minute play ends with a brutal act, one character’s madness, and no satisfying resolution, This is a more educational kind of theatre experience that will not be for everyone but it should be seen if possible.

The Bluest Eye plays through April 24 at Miles Memorial Playhouse, 1130 Lincoln Boulevard, 714.690.2900.

Related Posts

Film Review: Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One

July 19, 2023

July 19, 2023

FILM REVIEWMISSION IMPOSSIBLE – DEAD RECKONING PART ONERated PG-13163 MinutesReleased July 11th The story in this “Mission: Impossible” chapter, “Dead...

Film Review: Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

July 5, 2023

July 5, 2023

FILM REVIEWINDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINYRated PG-13154 MinutesReleased June 30th The director of Indiana Jones and the Dial...

Film Review: Past Lives

June 27, 2023

June 27, 2023

FILM REVIEWPAST LIVESRated PG-13105 MinutesLimited Releases June 2nd and June 9th, Full Release June 23rd The Korean concept of “In...

Film Review: Sanctuary

June 8, 2023

June 8, 2023

FILM REVIEWSANCTUARYRated R96 MinutesReleased May 19th In my humble estimation, this is one of the best movies of the year....

Film Review: The Little Mermaid

June 2, 2023

June 2, 2023

FILM REVIEWTHE LITTLE MERMAIDRated PG135 MinutesReleased May 26th With today’s technological developments, a live-action The Little Mermaid is not only...

A Riveting Revival of the Pulitzer Prize-Winning “A Soldier’s Play” Now Playing At The Ahmanson Theatre

May 31, 2023

May 31, 2023

On Stage With… Murder mysteries, whether cinematic or theatrical, are one of the most popular subjects. The list is quite...

Film Review: Chevalier

May 12, 2023

May 12, 2023

By Kathryn Boole  RATED PG-13107 MinutesReleased April 21, 2023 Chevalier is based on the true story of a historical figure...

Ballet at the Broad Stage Memorial Weekend – Meet the Talent!

May 10, 2023

May 10, 2023

Westside Ballet of Santa Monica returns to the Broad Stage with special guest artists kicking off Friday May 26th with...

Elizabeth McGovern Lights Up The Stage in “Ava – The Secret Conversations”

April 26, 2023

April 26, 2023

Play About Legendary Screen Star Runs Until May 14 At The Geffen Playhouse By Beverly Cohn Ava Gardner, born Ava...

Unconventional Art Festival “The Other Art Fair” Returns to Santa Monica This Weekend

March 31, 2023

March 31, 2023

140 independent artists, immersive installations, performances, DJs, and a fully stocked bar await visitors at Barker Hangar The Other Art...

Samohi Theatre’s “The Drowsy Chaperone” Takes the Stage in Santa Monica

March 1, 2023

March 1, 2023

Shows will take place at Barnum Hall on March 3 and 4 at 7 p.m. and March 5 at 3...

Film Review: “Marlow”

February 23, 2023

February 23, 2023

FILM REVIEW“MARLOWE”Rated R109 MinutesReleased February 15th “Marlowe” is a beautifully shot period piece that takes place in the late 1930’s....

Film Review: All Quite on the Western Front

February 22, 2023

February 22, 2023

I have never been a soldier at war, although I have close friends and relatives who have been. Universally they...

SMC Emeritus Concert Band to Hold Free Concert This Weekend at the Broad Stage

February 22, 2023

February 22, 2023

Concert February 26 will feature musical selections with an outdoor theme Santa Monica College’s Emeritus Concert Band, under the baton...