As I watched “Mother of the Dark Water,” I thought of Ntozake Shange’s “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow is Enuf.” Lauren Wells, the director and deviser of this piece, has created a “For Colored Girls” for the children of the women originally affected by Shange’s monumental 1976 work.
The question at the center of “Mother of the Dark Water” is, how do black women take back their very being in a world that has consistently hijacked their identity and history and repackaged it in whiteness to sell to the masses for centuries? It’s a large question that Wells adequately and gorgeously tames into ninety minutes of pure, joyous black-girl worship.
The story—infused with harmonic sound, striking visuals of black beauty, personal stories and dance—follows five women (played by Amariss Harris, Lynsey Ann Moxie, Johari Nandi, Jordan Rome and Kiayla Ryann each playing a nicknamed Yoruba Orisha) as they seek to answer the question behind Wells’ work.
What happens when these women join forces is nothing short of sheer regality. The most beautiful thing about this piece is that Wells does not allow her work to fall into the trap of respectability politics by hailing one specific type of black woman over the other. Through her characters and the imagery, she makes certain that no one is left behind, neither the Michelle Obamas of the world or the Lil’ Kims. She reinforces that although these women are different, they are all beautiful, valid and worthy of celebration. “Mother of the Dark Water” made me not only proud to be a black woman, but grateful that my story was placed in such capable hands. (Loy Webb)
MPAACT at The Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 North Lincoln, (773)404-7336, mpaact.org, $22-$40. Through March 3.