Chanting takes over the small space of The Fountain Theatre before the stage is even lit. The entire cast of In the Red and Brown Water comes onto the stage gleefully singing their song, chanting “Oya” over and over again. This piece is somewhat interactive, extremely funny and heart breaking all at the same time.
In the Red and Brown Water is the story of Oya (Diarra Kilpatrick) a young talented runner who chooses to stay with her dying Mother over going to college on a running scholarship. After her Mother, Mamma Mojo (Peggy A. Blow) passes, the scholarship is non-existence and she abandons running, the one thing in life that made her feel free. She turns to the one thing a poor Louisianan woman is expected to do, raise a family. She becomes lost and desperate when she finds out she cannot have children. It is a gut wrenching, but at times hilarious story about how sometimes one wrong decision can vastly alter the path of your life.
Tarell Alvin McCraney has written a unique piece full of dancing, singing, haunting story telling and enchanting characters. One part of the piece is extremely odd and something that is hard to describe in a way that brings justice to the technique. Throughout the play, the actors will turn directly to the audience, breaking that sacred third wall to tell the audience what their stage direction is. For example, Mamma Mojo is livid that the sleazy Shango (Gilbert Glenn Brown) is hitting on her precious Oya once again. Before she enters the scene she turns to the audience in a disgusted and infuriated tone and states “Mamma Mojo enters”. The effect is inspirational. We all know exactly how she feels before she even speaks a scripted line and we feel as if we are a part of it. It is like they are letting us in on their thoughts and feelings before the other characters get to know them. Glenn Brown makes excellent use of this technique with each of his exits and entrances, putting an exclamation point on just how sleazy his character is.
The entire cast has completely run away with this piece. They have made it their own and are obviously having a blast performing it. Blow is fantastic as the sassy and all-knowing Mamma Mojo, her facial expressions and use of stage directions bring you laughing to your knees. Kilpatrick is energizing and devastating as the hopeful and later hopeless Oya. Her enthusiasm and naivety will relate to anyone who has ever been young and full of dreams. She becomes lost and misguided after her Mother’s death and falls into the traps of young love and words filled with promises.
The direction of this show by Shirley Jo Finney seems perfect for this odd but electrifying piece. For the majority of the play all of the actors are on stage, off to the side, watching, singing, interacting with whatever is happening center stage. At some points actors even come into the audience and sit on the steps of the aisles, bringing the theatre together, as if we are all involved with what is going on. The actors are fully energized from beginning to end, starting with a song and ending the same way, getting the whole theatre involved in their rhythmic clapping. The Fountain is known for their great performances, often providing fantastic plays with their Los Angeles premiere, and this piece is no different.
In the Red and Brown Water is in the beginning of its run which lasts through December 16th. It is a play many ages and personalities will enjoy and one that will provide a new experience. It is like nothing you have ever seen before and something that is utterly fascinating and highly entertaining. If you have not yet discovered the hidden gem that is The Fountain Theatre then this is the perfect time to do so.