“A Chorus Within Her” Explores Women’s Perspectives on Pandemic

Theater Alliance Performance Runs Tthrough Nov. 14 at Anacostia Playhouse

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Still from "A Chorus Within Her," the Theatre Alliance performance running through No. 14 at Anacostia Playhouse. Courtesy: Theatre Alliance

The Theater Alliance, under the guidance of Producing Artistic Director Raymond Caldwell, has opened its 19th season at the Anacostia Playhouse with the choreopoem, “A Chorus Within Her,” based on poetry by Gabrielle Brant Freeman, Glenis Redmond,  Christine Sloan Stoddard and Carmin Wong.

The piece is referenced from the groundbreaking choreopoem, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Not Enough,” by Ntozake Shange which premiered in 1976.  It is an eye-catching, intriguing and fascinating story delivered by six outstanding actresses (Kathleen Ackerley, Jasmine Brooks, Ezinne Elele, Siana Nicole, Anna Shafer and Elizabeth Ung). It is directed by Alina Collins Maldonado and arrestingly choreographed by Tiffany Quinn.

You come into the theatre and are met with a set that seems like a web, a cocoon or perhaps the depiction of a womb. This, I was told by scenic designer Jessica Cancino, was constructed out of two materials (tendo and macronet) and bolstered by photographic projections that scenically amplify the ritual that unfolds.

The effect is stunning and begins to immediately titillate one’s senses. It ideally sets the scene for what becomes a fascinating exploration of women’s perspectives on living through the COVID-19 pandemic. Through a series of ritualistic actions that reflect the experiences of exploring their identities and perceptions, we witness a narrative of their lives.

It begins with each actress entering the set and slowly finding her assigned place on stage. This ritual suggests to me the idea that water is the essence of life; it is nurturing and purifying.  Once assembled, they begin to tell the stories of their truths and experiences prior to and during the past year –and how they face moving forward.  Their stories are told (in verse) with humor, pathos and keen insight.

This is about universal women of all depictions, but in particular there is a sequence which clearly and emotionally conveys the dilemma of women of color by posing the question, “Why are Black people chastised by “the establishment” for focusing on their own lives and things specifically of concern to them?”

This all seems pretty complicated, but it is the perfect example of how the beauty of true artistic collaboration elevates any effort to tell a story.  It was a seamless, insightful and thoroughly entertaining evening of the highest order. The energy and flair of the performances were breathtaking. It is a must-see show and I recommend that you get to the Anacostia Playhouse and catch this outstanding production.

A Chorus Within Her is showcased through Nov. 14th at the Anacostia Playhouse (2020 Shannon Pl. SE). Proof of vaccination is required to attend this performance.

Get tickets and info: theateralliance.com/portfolio/a-chorus-within-her