Thursday, April 2, 2009

Now that is some Hattitude!

Performance: Crowns
Theater: Arena Stage at the Lincoln Theater (1215 U Street, NW,)
Metro: U St station. Directions here.
Genre: Musical
Cost: $10 for the under 25 if you call the week of the show. $25 “New Deal” tickets for anyone.
Dates: Through April 26
Rating: 4/5 Starving Artists

Lady Awesome and I took my cousin to see Crowns on Saturday night. It’s the new Arena Stage musical at the Lincoln Theater on U Street. The verdict: worth seeing. Perhaps it is not a “must see”, but it is definitely a “try hard to see”. We had some complaints with the production decisions, but the performances, and the music are excellent.

Crowns is the story of Southern, black, church ladies and their fantastical hats. It is a series of monologues, interspersed with gospel songs and spirituals (you can hear some of them here). The five women weave stories about their mothers, their husbands, their churches, and their communities. They tell us about their hats as allegories and metaphors for their struggles and their triumphs. The tell us about the rules of wearing hats, the art of choosing hats, and the way that a good hat makes you feel. All of their stories are majestic, and so it is appropriate that they call them their Crowns.

Performances of note: Newcomer Zurin Villanueva shines as Yolanda, the young girl who goes to live with her grandmother, which is the driving force behind the story (if you could call it a story). Villanueva was cast in the part from an open audition and is a graduating senior at Howard. Her charisma and powerful voice will take her far. Natasha Yvette Williams is fantastic comic relief as Mabel. Though she is not the only one to deliver funny lines in the show, she is the one who delivers them with the best timing and spark. E. Faye Butler plays the grandmother of the story. Strong and courageous is how I would describe both the character and the performance. Her voice blew me away.

All told, it’s a fun show, and the best I’ve seen so far this spring. If you are looking for something to go to, go to this one.

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