Great Cast for 'Colored Girls'
But here's why Ntozake Shange's choreopoem deserves a better director.
Tyler Perry is not that man. Yes, over the course of his career he has cast some of the best actresses in black Hollywood, from Angela Bassett to Cicely Tyson to Alfre Woodard to Sanaa Lathan. But feeding McDonald's to a starving woman doesn't mean that you're serving up gourmet cuisine. Hollywood hasn't been kind to black actresses.
Now, I can appreciate his business hustle--and clearly, the gazillions of fans that flock to the multiplex to see Why Did I Get Married When I Can Do Bad All By Myself While Madea Goes to Jail can't all be wrong. (Or can they?) But there's a difference between commerce and art. As Thembi Ford noted on The Root last fall, For Colored Girls is all stripped-down minimalism and carefully crafted angst. Perry doesn't do subtle. Perry does gun-wielding men in drag and scenery-chewing melodrama.
I hope that I'm wrong. Shange's work made a big, big impression on me when I was a playwriting major in college. I was too young to see the original production on Broadway, but her work seeped into my subconscious, nonetheless. How could it not? She rendered the lives of black girls and women poetic, writing with humor, passion and pain. So while I wish Tyler Perry well, I'll be holding my hopes out that the Broadway revival of For Colored Girls, produced by Whoopi Goldberg and starring India.Arie, will find another financial backer and finally, finally, finally make it to the stage.
Teresa Wiltz is The Root's senior editor. Follow her on Twitter.