‘Big Girls Gotta Eat Too!’ at The Black Theatre Festival by ZSun-nee Matema

The DC Black Theatre Festival is a feast for one’s soul! Big Girls Gotta Eat Too! is a catchy title and I was excited to see how writers would fit such an urban tale into the minds and hearts of an audience.

The play was produced at Joe’s Movement, just north of NE, Washington, DC on the Josephine Baker Stage. As the stage filled with six women, each taking their places, striking individual poses of expression, I was reminded of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Isn’t  Enuf.’  Now, for all girls who are fighting daily challenges of being ‘big,’ there is a tale that sings their song.

Six women bravely lament their experiences, mostly sad, of how weight has affected their romantic choices and kept parental pride at bay. Through monologue, song and dance we hear the up and downside of being ‘large.’

Only one male role, played by Jeremy Webb, offers a male response to the ‘big’ woman.  Webb is enough reason to see the show!  I wish, however, that The Man’s role had been more fully developed than the one-dimensional character Webb was forced to play. Sadly, The Man’s role in Big Girls…offers very little hope to ‘big’ women who are seeking successful relationships.  This is balanced toward the end of the play by glimmers of hope as one woman tells of love on the brink of matrimony, and another of a supportive mate who seems oblivious to the fact that she is “not a size 3.”

There is a lot of damaging self-loathing in the show as we learn how ‘being big’ is not the only difficult thing to deal with, as one character sighs, “Try being ‘big’ and old!”

When it comes to finding a good man in Church one character screams, that her man sees her as a Bible. Well, almost. Her lament captures the loss of trust as she reveals that many nights she feels “like a book on the nightstand mostly unread.” Jumping up and down in her church robe – angry and upset, she lets us know that being ‘big’ is not redeemed by church-going men who “pledge more than they can pay.”

Vocals and instrumentals accompany many of the pieces.  Most set the mood in splendid fashion but all compete with the dialogue. The opening monologues are lost in several places .Simple but scene setting props take us beautifully from story to story as we learn young to old, married to single, according to the play, that being overweight is not easy for most women.

Two scene stealers: Chaun Archer as a Caribbean woman who shares her father’s care and purpose in raising his children, and her child (Angel Burrell) who brings home the fact that an actress can steal a scene even when not speaking a line.

A second showstopper was a beautifully choreographed dance featuring Shandalon, who gives all ‘big’ girls permission to use their bodies when inspired to swing, shake and move.

Much praise should be given to writers Melissa Blackman, Wanda Simmons and Chaun Archer for their desire to look at the difficult challenges of being overweight and the women who “smile to hide their pain.”

Toni Henson’s direction was especially sensitive, especially a scene where one of the ‘big’ girls finds herself seated on a park bench beside a handsome man. As she hopes for more than a great conversation, she ultimately learns that he considers her too big to carry it further.

The play ends with songs of praise and high energy dance as the cast, accompanied by African drums, shows their resilience to feelings of despair and depression and their willingness to overcome the stereotypes society holds of them.

If you missed the June 29 performance, look for it in Atlanta, Georgia. I have a feeling you’ll be hearing more about this robust menu of spirited damsels. Stay tuned…

** I apologize to all of the actors who were not mentioned. There was no program.

Big Girls Gotta Eat Too! is a part of the DC Black Theatre Festival and played June 29 at the Josephine Baker Stage at Joe’s Movement – 3309 Bunker Hill Road, in Mount Rainier, MD.

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