Theater Review: Black Pearl Sings!
By Livia Peterson
Considering the Milwaukee Rep's mission to ignite positive change and inspire meaningful conversations, Black Pearl Sings! provides a contagious melody that will leave you revitalized following the performance.
Two acts with one twenty minute intermission. In the first act, the Library of Congress collector Susannah Mullally (Colleen Madden) acquaints and eventually, become friends with the African American convict Alberta 'Pearl' Johnson (Lynette DuPree) at a prison farm during the summer in the southeast Texas during 1933. While Susannah requests Pearl to record songs of her past, Pearl demands to live a free life and find the long lost daughter. In the second act, Susannah and Pearl reside in the Greenwich Village based apartment during 1934. While Pearl performs for audiences, Susannah recognizes song is for the soul and so much more.
As one attends several Milwaukee Rep performances, one will realize the Rep will have a profound effect on you. Black Pearl Sings! delivers many pathos and indeed, one may shed a little sob during the second act. It's akin to the Rep reaching into your soul and yanking your heart out. Almost sixty five years and counting, one may wish the Rep is under the supervision of the artistic director Mark Clements and managing director Chad Bauman forever.
As Ms. Dupree's understated and nuanced performance allows one to ponder the lives of the poverty stricken African Americans, Ms. Madden's sublime, perhaps too assertive performance allows one to ponder race and segregation in the Trump Administration era.
From the marvelous scenic design by Courtney O'Neill to the elegant costume design by Lauren T. Roark, Black Pearl Sings! provides a relevant theatrical experience. Yet, Dupree's audience interaction during the second act will definitely leave a smile on one's face.
Black Pearl Sings! is easily my favorite Milwaukee Rep performance during my two years and counting as a Rep ticket holder. With that said, commence the conversations and allow theater, specifically the Rep to change you for the better. Even better, become a Rep subscriber. A
Black Pearl Sings! runs now through Sunday, March 18, 2018.
Milwaukee Repertory Theater│Stackner Cabaret
108 East Wells Street, Milwaukee WI 53202