Reel Life: Look To The “Rainbow”?

Photo courtesy Wikipedia

I remember as powerful a play as a lily-white newly teenaged man/child could comprehend…I vaguely remember being one of very few white people in the audience…and I remember the black woman sitting next to me, tears streaming down her face one moment, her self-affirmative, “Mmm hmm! That’s right!” proclamations the next; her juxtaposition of pride, fear, love and anger, joy and sadness, all accumulated…I was a minority – encompassed within a coterie of sisterhood who lived and breathed the fire and air that was on display on that stage…and I never felt more at ease with my homosexuality up to that point in my life. The ladies who surrounded me were being guided through their own explorations, and though I couldn’t decipher the emotional catharsis and confusion at the time, naturally, the consanguinity was both tangible and intangible.

I saw FOR COLORED GIRLS WHO HAVE CONSIDERED SUICIDE WHEN THE RAINBOW IS ENUF when I was 14 years old. There are so many shades of grey detailing that time frame of my life – like scattered fragments that can never make a whole. I can’t remember if I was solo, or if this was a school trip, or a date with my older “friend” (I was 14, involved, so to speak, with a 23-year-old from the neighborhood – a man who, of course, recoiled in the dank caverns of cowardice and later married)…or if I wandered into the Booth Theater one afternoon while sojourning the streets of a insalubrious, Mayor Abe Beame-era Times Square (never had I imagined that I would find my way back to the Booth Theater throughout the years as a spectator to many Broadway performances, from 1984s SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE to NEXT TO NORMAL only a few months ago…)

The plot synopsis in Wikipedia:

Structurally, For Colored Girls is a series of 20 poems, collectively called a “choreopoem.” It is performed by a cast of seven women characters, each of whom is known only by a color: “Lady in Yellow,” “Lady in Purple,” etc. The poems deal with love, abandonment, rape, and abortion, embodied by each woman’s story, i.e. Lady in Blue’s visceral account of a woman who chooses to have an abortion, and Lady in Red’s tale of domestic violence. The end of the play brings together all of the women for “a laying on of hands,” in which Shange evokes the power of womanhood as the Lady in Red begins the mantra “I found God in myself/and I loved her/I loved her fiercely.”

I wouldn’t have been able to oblige such intricate details so locked within/lost forever from my psyche three decades later…

So, out of historical curiosity, I do want to see the adaptation and probably will (and not because inside every gay man is a black woman trying to break free. Although…). But…

What irks and worries me beyond admittedly logical cognition about the film, retitled FOR COLORED GIRLS, is that it’s directed by Tyler Perry – a man responsible for more cinematic bile than any man has a right to without being brought to justice. And the film stars Janet Jackson, who unintentionably has given more  risible performances that any woman has a right to without being brought to (poetic) justice.

Prejudging is never something I’m apt to do – but I’ve suffered through far too many Perry debacles to automatically assume anything positive. Yet, in this particular situation, perhaps I should give him the benefit of the doubt. As a young, gay black man raised within an abusive household, Perry must have felt a kinship to this play that far too many young black men (and women) should ever have had to – he’s told the stories of his tormented and abused childhood at the hands of too many elders, especially his father. His affinity for these characters must be innately palpable. He’s far too young to have seen the original Broadway production, but as a prolific playwright, he’s sure the have read the text and been moved by it.

So, despite those aforementioned caveats and with that modicum of hope, at lleast the rest of the cast boasts some of the finest actresses working today. Phylicia Rashad, so magnificent in her Tony Award-winning roll a few seasons back for A RAISIN IN THE SUN, is the one I’m really looking forward to seeing. But with Whoopi Goldberg, Loretta Devine, Kimberly Elise, Thandie Newton, Anika Noni Rose, Kerry Washington in the cast it’s sure to be packed with some powerful performances.

The film was originally scheduled to debut in January 2011, but bumped up to November in hopes for Academy Award consideration.

Viewing the trailer brings back nothing familiar as far as plot points are concerned, and I notice that Perry subjected the storyline to a modernized setting. And, while it’s hard to say, “OSCAR-CALIBRE!!” from a trailer, I see nothing that displays any award-worthy potential:

What a refreshing change if this time my assumptions were unwarranted about  “A Film Directed By Tyler Perry.”


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