Culture Corner

Culture Corner – January 2014

2013 12-14 MFA Boston - Fired Earth, Woven Bamboo ExhibitWhere to start with this!? Like with my Work Out Wednesdays and Classics Club memes, I haven’t done a Culture Corner since October. Now this doesn’t mean I haven’t done anything cultural, it just means I needed a break and so took one. However, I am DEFINITELY ready to start writing about my myriad Cultural experiences!

The only real thing you missed over those months was I went to see an awesome exhibit, Fired Earth, Woven Bamboo, at the MFA. The way modern artists use these traditional materials was fascinating and stunningly beautiful. The basket is a woven bamboo basket and I definitely encourage you to click the earlier link to look at a few of the other beautiful bamboo and stone works.

Now what I’m most excited about and the REAL reason Cultural Corner is back is the stage production of The Color Purple. If you’ve followed this blog for a good while (since May of 2012) you know that I read and responded Alice Walker’s The Color Purple (and the movie) and it was a pretty visceral response. So when I found out the stage production was in Boston, and then heard the reviews, I knew I had to go see it.

I didn’t look too much into the production, which was on Broadway, so I wasn’t aware that it was a musical, but that was negligible because it was a phenomenal performance. The set, above right was creative and well designed to provide for the many locations and levels of the play. I wish I had a photo of the stage with the quintessentially southern porch swing, but I wasn’t able to stick around after the performance, damn you public transportation!

Now what was most phenomenal about the performance were the actors. Given that this is a story about women written by a woman (even though the original production was created by three men and a woman (Oprah)), I’m not surprised that the female cast is what stood out in this performance. From the chorus to Celie every single female character was perfectly cast and I couldn’t keep my eyes on any of them long enough to truly drink in what they brought to the performance. However, the stand outs for me were Lovely Hoffman as Celie and Valerie Houston as Sofia. The numerous other female cast members were wonderful as well, especially Carolyn Saxon and the other members of the ensemble who transitioned scenes, but Hoffman and Houston stood out for me.

I honestly wasn’t sure about Hoffman at first. Part of this I feel was due to the poor audio quality, but as it improved that wasn’t it. And the more I watched Hoffman and as the story progressed I realized that she wasn’t over-acting. Every one of her actions were carefully thought out and many were so subtle that I wasn’t really aware she was acting, but she acted every moment. There was one scene in the jukejoint where there is so much happening on stage and yet with all the dancing and singing and jumping around, my eyes were glued to Hoffman and the subtleties of her as Celie and they were perfect. Add in, once I found out it was a musical, that I wasn’t sure about her voice but as the play progressed and Celie comes  into her own, Hoffman brought the performance to a whole new level. I was in tears during her rendition of I’m Here and the entire cast coming together to close with The Color Purple (Reprise) only added icing to what was a wonderful performance.

Now whereas Hoffman grew on me, Valerie Houston’s performance grabbed me from the start and didn’t let go. From the moment she comically walked on to the stage to the heartbreaking scenes after she’s been beaten and subdued into servitude she commanded the stage. As with Hoffman, Houston’s performance had subtleties which I felt were missing from a lot of the other performances AND she provided a much-needed humor outlet from some of the harder scenes. When she starts laughing at what I feel is one of the apexes of the play/story and when her character changes, her performance deserved an ovation for the sheer swing from one emotional extreme to another emotional extreme. She cracked the audiences veneer at a crucial moment and a lesser actor would run the risk of falling short.

If there was one overall thing that I was disappointed it was the decision not to include the opening line, “You better not tell nobody but God. It’d kill your mammy.” This, to me, is one of the most iconic opening lines of a novel I’ve ever written. It sets the scene perfectly and sent chills down my spine.

Bottom line, if you have the opportunity to go see it before it closes DO IT. Plus the venue, the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts was stunning and had plenty of leg room!

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