A decade has passed since Regina Taylor's ‘Crowns' premiered. Back then our nation was dealing with the after effects of 9/11 and those nurturing, church going matriarchs, proudly wearing their bedazzled hats and singing of a greater glory, had an amazing tertiary healing effect on the audiences going through the trauma of those events. For 2012, ‘Crowns' has been made a bit more Chicago-centric. In the current production now playing to packed houses at the Goodman, Englewood teenager Yolanda has become a product of her environment. After her brother and mentor is shot and killed by a "friend", her mother sends her to Darlington,South Carolina to live with her grandmother (Felicia Fields). Let the cross-culture chaos begin.
The saying, "it takes a village" is proven true here as grandma's church-community embraces rebellious Yolanda and attempts to instill in her a sense of pride. With their magnificent hats atop their quaffed (and not so quaffed) hair, the ladies tell there individual stories of over coming oppression, dealing with loss, finding the simple joys in life and more importantly, living for a higher purpose. Each of these woman are symbols of strength and dignity and their ‘crowns' are as much a part of their history as the Holy Book itself.
The Goodman stage has never been graced with so much talent. Each of these actors, Felicia Fields (Mother Shaw), Pauletta Washington (Wanda), Jasondra Johnson (Velma), Alexis J. Rogers (Jeanette) & E. Faye Butler (Mabel),are at the top of their game and together, it is like something I have never seen. Each story is told as if were raw in their memories and as an observer, will shake you to your core. Of equal strength is the amazing, multi-talented, David Jennings, who brings much of the show's emotional force to fruition.
The true find here is Marketta P. Wilder who commands the stage as Yolanda and is on equal footing with our glorious divas. Her transformation from the Englewood, street rapping teen to a spiritual being beginning to heal, is certainly Jeff worthy.
All the other components are in place to make a beautiful whole. Fred Carl's musical direction is masterful as is Dianne Mcintyre's inspired choreography. The trio of Maruti Evans , Karen Perry and Kenneth Posner (set, costume and lighting design, respectfully) each integrate into each other seamlessly [Maya' Ciarrocchi's projections must be mentioned here as well].
No matter what your faith or belief, this is a universal story of how we are expected to act as a collective. It is about our humanity gathering around a broken soul to attempt to repair damage caused by choices and circumstances and attempt to make them a better person. These women all implore us to wear our Crowns to make this world a better place. Ms. Taylor has certainly fulfilled her obligation by creating this show.
Crowns continues to August 12, 2012 at the Goodman Theatre,170 N. Dearborn St.,Chicago. For more information, visit www.goodmantheatre.org