This Week in Theater
Review by Rose Desena
An abandoned multiracial baby is floating down the Navarro River in a basket. Tousled back and forth in the water, she waits for someone or something to save her. Far away from the hardships of the south, the child is found by villagers and then adopted by a white man in Boonville, California; he names her Bulrusher (illegitimate child).
The play takes place in the 1950’s as Elisa Davis (playwright) takes us on a mythical journey that is nothing less than magical. It’s a story of community and struggle, of survival, strength, and honesty that will touch your heart and tug at your soul.
Bianca Lamaire (Bulrusher) is positively mesmerizing as the teen that has lived her life knowing she was different but never completely understanding the reasons why. She lived without a mirror and very few friends to help guide her. Bulrusher has no one other than a few adults and one other black person in the town to identify wit, until a visitor comes to town. It’s then that our innocent girl Bulrusher discovers that there is a big mean world out there. She finds herself in a bit of a sticky situation with her new friend and business partner Vera (Chauntae Pink). Vera is from Birmingham, Alabama and cannot believe that one can live side by side with the white man, eat in the same place and live in the same house. These two opposite characters bring a sharp contradiction to the story creating a soft conflict.
Schoolch (Warren Davis) is her guardian, to protect her from being stigmatized a Witch, she is forbidden to use her special powers, reading the water and telling the future. But that doesn’t keep Bulrusher from taking care of herself and making a living. When she isn’t a hustling fruit, she stops by the local brothel for a cup of tea and some female companionship. Heidi James (Madame) runs her business with a strong hand and a cold heart. She keeps Bulrusher at a distance. There is a little romance going on as well, Madame is not without a secret admirer and neither is Bulrusher. Boy (Patrick Cragin) works hard at getting Bulrusher’s attention. Davis creates an interesting portrait of Northern California before there were fancy vineyards, pot growers, and tourists who now fill the small towns of Mendocino. A place that didn’t know hate in a time when there was plenty to go around.
I am not going to give any more away but I will tell you that Davis has included everything in this play that makes it worthy of a big house production. It moves nicely, making you a willing hostage in your seat. Derrick McDaniel (Lighting Designer) and Hana S. Kim (Set-Projection Designer) make the stage come alive with some artistic visuals. The acting is absolutely suburb; the entire cast is simply perfect as is the stellar work of director by Nataki Garrett. I was charmed by Bianca Lamaire, her face beams and expose’s her every expression. She has the kind of face that makes you want to love her.
Bulrusher is a powerful and memorable fable, that stuck with me long after. Although it made me cry a little, my wet eyes were more joyful then sad. I can see why Davis is a Pulitzer finalist. It has all the components that make great story telling.
Kudos to Gary Grossman and the Skylight Theatre for teaming up with Lower Depth Theater Ensemble. If this is an example of what they will be producing in the future, it will be a very successful marriage.
Please don’t miss this, it’s a winner!
Written by: Eisa Davis
Directed by: Nataki Garrett
Runs: Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 3pm through September 28, 2014.
The Skylight Theatre is located at 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave, LA, 90027. Tickets are $30. Reservations: 213-761-7061 or online at http://skylighttix.com