The mark of good theatre, of a truly transformative piece, is how universal it is. How much it speaks to the then and the now. Queens Girl in the World by Caleen Sinnette Jennings – currently playing in rep with Queens Girl in Africa at Everyman Theatre – is one of those pieces.
Directed – smartly and with an openness that is absolutely integral to telling this story – by Paige Hernandez, Queens Girl in The World (originally premiering in 2015), follows the emotional, physical, and social awakening of Jacqueline Marie Butler during the turbulent societal upheaval of the 1960s. To give away the plot would be a disservice so suffice to say, Jacqueline Marie goes through a lot of changes.
Dawn Ursula gives a tour de force performance as she channels not one, not two, but over five different characters to show you the inner and outer life of Jacqueline Marie. Bringing a deft comedic touch and brutal honesty to a host of topics: from code-switching to puberty, to realizing what your race means – to others and yourself – Ursula fully commits to every moment of each character’s inner life, often switching from character to character in the same scene.
The production is outstanding, with Paige Hathaway and Ivania Stack, deserving of special notice for the level of detail that they pay to the set and clothing choices. Hathaway’s Queens, NY is familiar to anyone who’s lived there, from the street lamps to the stoop while Stack’s little touches – stockings! – truly enhances the overall story and the performance that Ursula gives.
Overall, this performance was a delight and I look forward to seeing what Erika Rose does with the role as we follow Jacqueline Marie’s journey to Nigeria in Queens Girl in Africa next week. In a brilliant move, Everyman Theatre will be alternating Parts One and Two every week for the months of May and June as well as premiering Part Three: Queens Girl In The Green Mountains in March of 2020 as part of their New Voices Festival.
I can’t wait to see what’s next.
Running Time: One hour and 45 minutes including a 15-minute intermission.
Patrons wishing to see both Queens Girl in the World and Queens Girl in Africa can obtain a 20% discount using this link.
Additional credits: Set Design, Paige Hathaway; Lighting Design, Nancy Schertler; Costume Design, Ivania Stack; Projection Design, Sarah Tundermann; Sound Design, David Lamont Wilson; Dialects, Kim James Bey; Dramaturgy, Robyn Quick; Props Master, Jillian Mathews; Stage Management, Amanda M. Hall & Cat Wallis