By Dwayne T. Lawrence
Crowns, the high octane, gospel infused play written and directed by the legendary Regina Taylor was a rousing good time at the Goodman Theatre. The music was off the chain, under the direction of Fred Carl. Hand clapping, foot stomping, and dancing in your seat to the soulful rhythms of a talented cast was an inevitable and predictable response. I missed church on Sunday, but on Monday (Opening Night), Crowns delivered a rip-roaring sermon sufficient to make anyone a believer!
The story is relevant to current times, telling of a young girl Yolanda (Marketta P. Wilder) from Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood. Recently, Yolanda experienced the death of her beloved brother to gun violence on the mean streets. Her mother, in a desperate attempt to save her remaining child, sends Yolanda to live with her grandmother, Mother Shaw (Felicia D. Fields) in Darling, South Carolina. Generations collide when the hip-hopish teenager meets the genteel, boisterous, church going matriarch of the family.
As is typical in most African-American families, Mother Shaw is backed-up by a host of surrogate mavens who lend their wisdom, experience and powerful voices to help Yolanda stay on the right path. One of the most intriguing aspects of the play from the outset was the transcendence of time across generations and historical references that connect the audience, committing the audience to believe that these believable characters are in fact part of their own crazy family. We all have a Mother Shaw in our lives, who sacrifices her life to be the anchor, the supportive matriarch who comes when she is called and nurtures everyone back to health. The inter-weaving of stories made this play profoundly enjoyable because the transitions from past to present engages the audience and gives further definition to all the nuanced relationships. Crowns was wrought with symbolism and laced with the teachings of values illustrated by the type of hat and attitude with which it is worn. The rich music and powerful voices of the cast help to define the spirit and purposeful direction. Simple lessons to be used in everyday life become more pronounced through the meaning of hats and their importance in everyday interactions.
Crowns, is truly worth seeing! The intertwining of gospel tunes and hip-hop mesh and highlight the differences between generations and act as a constant reminder that despite these differences, music can help us relate in special and unique ways. “Our crowns are bought and paid for, all we have to do is wear them,” and well they did in this crowning achievement!
Crowns is extended through August 12, 2012. Ticket prices are $29-88. View more theater listings!