By Alexi Siegel
Oscar Wilde stated theatre was “the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the essence of what it is to be a human being.” Included in the playbill for North Carolina Central University’s production of The Bluest Eye, the words of Wilde capture the goal of the play perfectly and ultimately what NCUU achieved. Through stunning stage pictures, their addition of music, and the actor’s exceptional story telling abilities, the very souls of these characters were revealed onstage in a way that allowed human nature to be better understood by the end of the play. The actors were able to send a message about the human condition that touched the entire audience and inspired a well-deserved standing ovation. The production explained how such a devastating story could happen but asked the audience the real question, which is, why?
This play tells the story of a young girl, Pecola, and her disturbing childhood that ultimately leads her to hate what some people consider the very window to a persons soul, her own eyes. The play never places blame on one individual in particular, focusing instead on trying to show the terrifying events that could lead to the breaking of a soul. Even the character of the abusive, alcoholic father, Cholly, was given a full back-story that caused a brief moment of empathy for his character. The revelation of the horrors of his past humanized this child molester.
Moriah Williams (Pecola), Daja Middleton (Claudia), and Kay Monet (Frieda), who were the main characters of the script, used the full range of their vocal abilities by creating character voices and singing which heightened the plot. And while these college actresses were clearly not the age of the characters they played, they expressed the playful energy of youth with a bouncy light air that allowed the audience to suspend their disbelief.
Right from the opening moment, the director, Dr. Asabi, brings the audience into the world she has created and keeps them there. Claudia and Pecola appear on opposite sides of the stage, and while Claudia begins to sing the rest of the characters appear and take their places standing about, in their own worlds. The director is letting you know instantly from the disparate staging and the inclusion of music that this show is not always literal, but is still able to evoke a deep emotional reaction and tell its story.
All of the actors and technical elements of this show worked together to provide a seamless and moving piece of theatre. I turned to a quote from George Bernard Shaw included in the playbill to sum up the show, “You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul.” This production showed us the souls of all its characters and perhaps taught everyone a little bit about the importance of making people feel like their soul is beautiful.