The many hues of colored girls


Portland Center Stage's latest, 'For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf,' runs hot and cold.

Some gutsy acting and riveting dance sequences keep the show afloat for much of its 90-minute running time. But as directed by Andrea Frye, the show's feminist politics are so preachy at times that audience members may feel as if they are being lectured, not entertained or enlightened.

Billed as a 'choreopoem,' this 1976 work by ntozake shange blends dance, poetry, song and feminist discourse. Throwing linear plot structure to the wind, 'For Colored Girls' consists of disjointed, but thematically connected, scenes that dramatize segments of the lives of seven women. The women's names Ñ Lady in Purple, for instance Ñ correspond with the color of their long, flowing dresses.

From a fun, free-spirited scene in which the women groove to 'Dancing in the Streets' to blunt discussions about rape, the show runs the gamut of emotions and addresses women's and ethnic issues.

The performances, however earnest, are a bit uneven. Each actress is a pleasure to watch during the lyrical dances choreographed by Patdro Harris. But during their monologues, some performers push the limits of melodrama way too far, resulting in unintentionally campy moments.

Crystal Fox turns in the most powerful performance as the Lady in Red. In one searing scene that's almost unbearable to watch, she acts out the tragic story of a violent husband who stalks his wife and two children.

The simple, visually pleasing set by Rochelle Barker looks like a classic Greek amphitheater with a modern industrial flair. The characters retreat behind the pillars when they exit the stage, as if seeking sanctuary from their troubles. It's a fitting motif, given that the cast merges at times to form a spoken word or singing chorus.

For all its strengths, this production of 'For Colored Girls' comes up short in the end. The moments of overblown acting and the heavy-handed feminist rhetoric raise skepticism about an experience that could have left us breathless, even spiritually transformed.

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