Last weekend, Point Park’s Conservatory Theatre Company opened its production of The Bluest Eye, adapted from Toni Morrison’s book by Lydia R. Diamond and directed by Monica Payne. This story is a powerful portrayal of post-Depression life as part of the black community and the ugly truths of racism. The focal point of this story is the Breedlove family, specifically Pecola Breedlove (Torée Alexandre) a young girl growing up in an abusive home, dealing with rape, racism and self-hatred.
Alexandre does a dishearteningly wonderful job portraying Pecola and her state of confusion and sadness. It is a heartbreaking performance as the audience watches and listens to the troubled girl describe the pains of racism and her wish for beautiful blue eyes while she clings onto her childhood innocence.
The audience is guided through the story by two of Pecola’s peers, Claudia and Frieda MacTeer (Kendall Arin Claxton/Saige Smith), sisters that grew up with Pecola. The energy of Smith and Claxton really keep audiences engaged and on track through the emotional ups and downs of this story. Their sisterly banter provides much needed comic relief at times while Claxton delivers a powerful depiction of Claudia’s hatred toward her white babydoll.
The story also dives into the lives of Pecola’s parents Cholly (Perris Drew) and Pauline Breedlove (Amber Jones). Cholly and Pauline narrate their own histories, shedding light on how their lives became what they are. The deeper this story goes into each character, new layers of hardship and humiliation are revealed. Their ugliness and dirty laundry are gossiped about by the neighbors in an attempt to make themselves feel better about their own unfortunate situations.
The play is narrated like the book, but at times the narration may seem a bit redundant as the audience does not need to be told a character drops to their knees because we are watching them do so. The set is rather minimal, consisting of only a bedframe and a few small tables. The different scenes are differentiated by the placement of the door frames, door frames that are embedded in the single piece of wood that makes up the floor. The scene changes were slow and choreographed, which at first seems unnecessary until those moments become welcome when trying to digest the subject matter. During these slow, elegant scene shifts, dramatic music plays over the speakers or the ensemble sings haunting songs that really hone in on the mood set by the previous scene.
The Bluest Eye is truly an emotional, thought-provoking story and sheds a unique light on racism and the hardships of the black community. While this story is mainly about Pecola, seeing it unfold through the perspective of other members of the community as well adds a complexity that grips the viewer well beyond closing curtain. Payne does a wonderful job directing an extremely talented cast and ensemble giving the story and characters authenticity through a moving performance.
Special thanks to the Pittsburgh Playhouse for complimentary press tickets.
The Bluest Eye continues next weekend starting again on March 10. For tickets and more information check out the Pittsburgh Playhouse’s website here.