Through May 27
BLACKBERRY DAZE: A Murder Romance in the Key of Blues Paul Robeson Theatre/African American Cultural Center
“Daze” is a good word to use in Ruth P. Watson and Thomas W. Jones II’s “Blackberry Daze; A Murder Romance in the Key of Blues.”
They took Watson’s novel “Blackberry Days of Summer” and turned it into a musical.
The good side is its strong production, with Jones at the helm.
The bad side is that the story is more than a little dazed.
The life and Agatha Christie fate of Herman Camm (Fisher) is in keeping with the tenor of these times, with bad men paying a price for bad behavior.
But, the story is set right after World War I in rural Virginia, when Jim Crow still reigns and Black people are kept in their place.
Camm knows where the place of women is and he’s there to take advantage of his desires among women looking for a more pleasurable life.
He marries Mae Lou (Latosha Payton) and carries on with the night club singer Pearl (Tifani Wofford) and on those intervals when those two adults aren’t around, he takes up with Mae Lou’s daughter, Carrie (Danielle Green), who has hopes to get out of this small community and make something of herself.
Then there’s the younger and nicer male character, Augustus Donaldson’s Simon, who is in love with Carrie but even more in love with baseball and gets hired by the Washington Grays in the old Negro Leagues.
There’s also Pearl’s paramour Willie (also Donaldson), who’s violent and forces Pearl to leave town with him to get away from Camm, when he comes back from the segregated Army of the war and finds out what’s going on.
When Carrie discovers she’s pregnant after being raped by Camm, the women in this community take justice into the own hands, at least hands carrying a 30.06.
The music is only so-so, although weak material gets strong production numbers from the entire cast and from Pearl with her blues.
Carrie kicks in with “Palm of God,” as her personal life falls apart.
Jones is working with a good cast of dancers and has drilled them well.
“Daze” is one of those shows where you just have to sit back and see where it’s going, at least if you haven’t read the book, and know what will happen.
Jones has three strong performances, especially Fisher but also Wofford and Green.
“Blackberry Daze: A Murder Romance in the Key of Blues” would argue that sometimes people get what they deserve, as Camm does.
Maybe that’s why the show is worth seeing, an actual answer to a bad situation.
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