Blakk Love (Storeez of a Darker Hue) | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Blakk Love (Storeez of a Darker Hue) 

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Chameleon Productions

at the Edgewater Theatre Center

A wave of collaborations between literary and theatrical artists (reinaugurated, after a flurry of activity in the mid-70s, by Zebra Crossing's 1990 Lexis Praxis) has given rise to a type of production consisting of little more than a jumble of poetry and prose thrown together under a broad title that usually includes the word "celebration." How refreshing it is, then, to discover a page-to-stage adaptation--publicized as a "celebration of the depth and diversity of love"--that takes the 14 compositions of its seven authors and weaves them into a coherent narrative.

Blakk Love (Storeez of a Darker Hue) opens with an aural and kinetic montage of the refrains of later works--the theatrical equivalent of a table of contents--and with L.M. Duncan's ode to "Blakk Love Supreme." Then we meet a man and a woman, the former depressed and uncertain after the death of his son and the failure of his marriage, the latter withdrawn and psychologically scarred by her memories of a gang rape by schoolmates bent on punishing her for her feminism. As these two broken souls make their slow and tentative way toward trust and friendship, we hear them question their own and each other's motives and desires.

"Yes, I do have a dick," protests the man, as much to himself as to the woman he loves, in a section by Taehimba Jess. "Yes, I listen to Ice Cube. But I am not a rapist." Their two inner selves paint an idyllic picture of love in a section by Oscar Brown III: "Take this persimmon, love . . . while I carve a drum from the hard wood of the tree, and the rhythm that I play will be the rhythm that you and I make." And an urban guerrilla interrupts the action from time to time to prognosticate a future "when niggas love revolution like they love the Bulls" (again, by Jess). This begins as a sermon about making war instead of love, with images of basketball courts as paramilitary training grounds for children who grow into soldiers rather than basketball players, but it evolves into a call for personal pride and self-government: "When niggas love revolution like they love the Bulls . . . [they will] leave the stadiums to build schools in their communities."

Blakk Love sometimes drifts into simple feel-you-touch-you-caress-you rhapsodizing or nebulous interior monologue--the woman's contemplation of her past from the solitude of her bath comes perilously close to dissolving in abstraction. But the modest specificity of Tsehaye Hebert's man, who longs to feed his lady "smoked oysters, crusty bread, and room-temperature brie," the leisurely courtliness of Brown's query, "May I revolve the wheel of my conversation around the axle of your understanding?" and the gentle mischief of Quraysh Ali's account of his grandmother's funeral, at which two aunts vie with each other in dramatic expression of their grief, more than make up for any slow spots. Adapter/director Lisa M. Duncan has tightly orchestrated her ensemble (Bridgett R. Williams, Daniel J. Bryant, Victor Wells, Josh White III, and writer Dorcas M. Johnson), making Blakk Love a smoothly turning wheel around the axle of our understanding.


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