Blue God Examines Faith and Trust at DC’s THEARC
Last Sunday afternoon, THEARC in DC was a flurry of festivities, including at its center the play, Blue God, by Marshawn Metters. The one performance was sold out, and there was a sense of excitement as the doors to the house hadn’t opened. A DJ played house music, there was a red carpet and backdrop for photo taking, even a bar, and some selling of jewelry in the lobby.
It was immediately apparent that a lot of planning went into the afternoon by Timeless Entertainment, and that this was more than seeing a play – it was a whole, somewhat unconventional experience! The event was capped off with a catered reception after the curtain call, where cast members felt the love of all those who came to see them perform. It was a play! It was a party! It was a celebration!
After a singer came on to sing a love song, which I understood later was to enable latecomers to not miss the top of Act 1, Blue God started simply, with a husband and father, Cameron (Ronald Brown) in his comfortable, upscale living room, enjoying his laptop. We quickly learn he is out of work and not making progress in getting his previous job back. This later becomes a bone of contention with his wife, Mariah (Sheena Alston), but more reasons their marriage is on the rocks emerge. Cameron and Mariah have clearly “lost that loving feeling” as the song goes, and the lack of chemistry between them makes one wonder if there ever were any. Mariah is told she is “selfish” several times, and she disregards and neglects her relationships left and right. Alton’s portrayal was straight forward, and she was rather unlikable right from the start.
Their 12 year-old daughter, A’mira (Skky Mabry), seeks out not just her parents, but other family members who arrive on the scene to come see her basketball game. No one is really interested, and they politely decline. This will be something everyone later regrets.
So when Mariah’s relatives arrive unannounced, the tension increases. We realize Mariah and her sister, Dana (La Sonya Olden) don’t get along due to a basic sibling rivalry, “You’re just jealous” kind of thing. Their brother Stanley (Ernest Highsmith) is the butt of the family’s inside jokes, for good reason, especially due to his Act 2 antics with two “Ladies of the Night” – both played comically by Stacey Tyson.
A cousin camps out on the couch, Shelley (Shik Cope), and though her lines are few, her body language conveyed plenty of disdain for others. Shelley seems to be in the play for the purpose of brilliantly singing two testimonial songs: “Holy One,” by Anaysha Figueroa, and the title tune, “Blue God” by Jessica Reedy.
The matriarch of the family, Gee-Gee, (Marcia Leftwood Holton) at first seems like an affable, church going lady who just wants everyone to be happy. Her shining moment is when she busts a few moves as she breaks into “Moment for Life” by Nicki Minaj, until her knee gives out on her. It got one of the biggest laughs of the show. Surprisingly, this is her stage debut as an actor, and Leftwood Holton played Gee-Gee with warmth and grace; she is a natural.
In Act 2 we were truly blessed to hear her incredible vocals on “Open My Heart” by Yolanda Adams as she looked to God to give her strength for a particular crisis she faces, a plot line that then gets entirely dropped in the arc of the story, unfortunately.
While Blue God is not billed as a musical, these four songs sung by powerhouses effectively heighted the emotions in their scenes. The audience loved it, gauging from the prolonged applause each time.
Another layer to Blue God is a subplot about a newly engaged couple, Vikki and Dion, played by real life husband and wife duo, Pamela Bunn-Nelson and Gill Nelson, who is also the producer and director of the show. The excitement of their love in bloom is quickly dashed by the confirmed rumors of his checkered past, and the big question is, can Vikki forgive him for not being honest and transparent about it? They truly struggle with this, and it seems familiar as it is a pattern of so many romantic relationships onstage and off – the old “you-aren’t-who-I-thought-you-were!” It was convincing because so many of us can really relate to this type of relationship conflict.
At the heart of this play were a lot of the various characters’ interpretations of God’s love for humanity and for sinners. Among the lines that stood out were observations like:
“Either God ordains it or orchestrates it.”
“God is sad to see us living our lives as some of us do… we disrespect him.”
“God gets your attention by bringing destruction in your life.”
“Give God the time of day.”
“Let Jesus be your choice.”
So this family has problems, not unlike many families – major financial woes, fraud, health crises, infidelity, a secretive past. When it all snowballs into a fevered pitch, a Pastor (realistically played by Pastor Jerome Buie) lays it all out: It’s not too late to seek a good relationship with God. This is a message Mariah, the wife and mother, especially needs to hear, and her response is an all out plea and a hysterical apology to God.
Although this provides a dramatic last scene, and there is a reunion, it seemed, unfortunately, a bit forced, rushed, and predictable.
This was the second production of Blue God, with the first being performed in Los Angeles. How wonderful it is that DC actors had the opportunity to explore Blue God’s themes, and that a sold-out crowd came to witness it all.
Can I get an AMEN?
Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, with a 30-minute intermission.
Blue God played for one performance only on July 24, 2016, at Timeless Entertainment performing at THEARC – 1901 Mississippi Ave., S.E., in Washington, DC. For future events at THEARC, go to their events calendar.