Home #Hwoodtimes Blues For An Alabama Sky Transports The Audience Back In Time

Blues For An Alabama Sky Transports The Audience Back In Time

The Waning Days of the Harlem Renaissance During the Great Depression Come to Life at the Mark Taper Forum as Dreams of Past Glory Simmer and Linger.

By John Lavitt

Greg Alverez Reid and Kim Steele in “Blues for an Alabama Sky” at Center Theatre Group / Mark Taper Forum through May 8, 2022.

Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 4/23/2022 – Once again, the Center Theatre Group shows why it is the Broadway of Los Angeles by putting on a beautifully designed production. Indeed, Blues For An Alabama Sky transports the audience to the waning days of the Harlem Renaissance. As the Great Depression broke the spirit of the roaring twenties, creative voices were drowned out nationwide by hungry cries and angry protestations. As directed by Phylicia Rashad, the conflicting realities of those days come to life in the Mark Taper Forum.

In a sweltering summer in Harlem in 1930, Angel Allen (Nija Okoro) struggles with the losses in her life. In a drunken rage against her married mobster boyfriend, the cabaret singer loses her job and her questionable relationship. Moreover, being the girlfriend of a bad boy means that she also loses her cushy apartment and her entire wardrobe. Supported by her extroverted gay best friend, Guy Jacobs (Greg Alvarez Reid), a designer dreaming of creating outfits for the legendary Josephine Baker in Paris, Angel’s struggles will continue to drive the play’s run until May 8th.

Nija Okoro in “Blues for an Alabama Sky” at Center Theatre Group / Mark Taper Forum through May 8, 2022.

Both Okoro and Reid stand out as the highlights in the five-person talented cast. As Angel, Okoro presents a truly conflicted character who battles hidden trauma and materialistic desires. Haunted by the difficulties of the past, Okoro dreams of finding security, no matter what the cost. If the price of security is a violation of personal principles or beliefs, are we willing to pay that price? Ultimately, this moral quandary is the question at the heart of the play.

As Guy Jacobs, Reid is the flamboyant and loving heart of the play. Beyond his unmistakable creativity, the character comes through for his friends when they are in crisis. He is willing to struggle to make ends meet if it means helping another human being. At his core, his willingness to be of service reveals how internal strengths can overcome external challenges.

Although the play’s plot points are going to be kept under the covers, the true success of the play is not in the story but in the atmosphere and the design. Ultimately, the greatest weakness of Blues For An Alabama Sky is the script by Pearl Cleage. The brushstrokes of the plot lack a certain precision. Instead of delving into the deeper gray areas, every conflict is black and white with an obvious outcome. The story’s construction lacks surprise and the final moments feel predestined from the beginning.

Despite the script’s weakness, the production is worth seeing. The performances are excellent, and the production design is first-rate. The two apartments in Harlem in the summer of 1930 feel authentic, offering a sense of actuality. Moreover, the skyline effect at the back of the theatre is ingenious. At night, the skyline feels magical, but the day transforms it into the grubbiness of reality. Like Angel Allen, when you scratch past her surface glamour, the trauma and the sorrow are revealed.

Photos by Craig Schwartz