Hoodoo LoveBy Iquo B. Essien, The AFRican Blogger

Hoodoo Love
By Iquo B. Essien, The AFRican Blogger

Published on Wed, Oct 24 2007 by Iquo Essien

Katori Hall, award-winning playwright of Hoodoo Love. Photo credit: Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

Last night I checked out a show in the West Village with one of my homegirls from NYU. We had received an e-mail from Keith Davis, a third year film student, about a play, Hoodoo Love, showing at the Cherry Lane Theater. It's written by Katori Hall, an up-and-coming black playwright and performer who is a Columbia and Harvard theatre grad. I was complaining on my way there about how tired I was, but when the house went black and the stage lights came up, I was transported to 1933 Memphis Tennessee, caught up in the story of Toulou and her sometimes Blues man the Ace of Spades.

In the play, the aged Candy Lady, Toulou's sage and witty neighbor, provides a hoodoo potion to keep Ace, a traveling blues man and womanizer, in Toulou's bed for good. Meanwhile, Toulou's brother Jib, a self-righteous preacher, pays a visit and dredges up painful family history of incest, rape, and betrayal. I'm not gonna spoil the ending for y'all. All I'm gonna say is that Hall is a brilliant playwright, and performances by Keith (Jib), Angela Lewis (Toulou), Marjorie Johnson (Candy Lady), and Kevin Mambo (Ace of Spades) are some of the best I've ever seen on a stage.

I'm being too modest. I enjoyed this play more than I have any other in my life. Partly, it was because it's written by a sistah and the writing is so damn good. The other part is because I've SO been there, knowing that it would take some serious hoodoo, voodoo, or juju to keep a "sometimes man" in my life. I must have yelled out, "Tell the truth!" about ten times during the whole show.

And that's the thing about black art -- the call and response. The audience was as much a part of the performance as the actual actors were. We helped to validate and give life to the story being told. I almost felt like, when we walked out into the lobby after the show, we would meet Toulou herself.

But what we encountered after the showwas so much better than that: we met the actors themselves. Each and every one of them left the performance onstage and brought their real selves to meet the audience -- and they were all humble, grateful, and talented human beings. Even Hall, who has been showered with critical acclaim, was as approachable as if she were sitting on a stoop in Memphis.

I almost never do this, but I'm telling you guys to go see this play. The room wasn't nearly as packed as it should have been and you don't get many chances to see black women playwrights at the top of their game. If you can, pick a Tuesday show after which the actors, director, and writer hold a Q&A session with patrons.

Peace,

The AFRican Blogger


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