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from okra to greens/a different kinda love story 

A banquet for the senses, Ntozake Shange's "choreopoem" is brave and necessary

Wednesday, Feb 15 2006
One of the most prominent African-American arts institutions in the Bay Area has selected a challenging play to crown its season during Black History Month. The script of playwright Ntozake Shange's okra arouses the senses like vinegar-scented molasses. Tensions between three couples, each of which represents Okra (a woman) and Greens (a man), result in palpable heat, in the form of lingual duets and luscious monologues. The pair revel in the hues and textures of nature, rebuke the injustices of politics, mourn losses, and celebrate love, all the while proving that language is tactile. This different kinda love story unfolds as an inventive "choreopoem," which presents drama in powerful verse and fluid choreography. Spirited tribal dance opens the performance, grounding us in the African roots that energize the play. Soulful musical excerpts, from jazz to R&B to reggae, welcome the movement, accentuate the words, and often connect the action to a signature era. The elaborateness of this play is ambitious, evident in the program's glossary of icons, landmarks, pivotal events, and cultural clues referenced in Shange's writing. Jarrod Fischer's lighting scheme weds the passionate verse to vibrant color, while Elizabeth Carter (as Okra No. 3) provides the noteworthy presence essential to the poetry's life onstage. A banquet for the eyes and ears, okra is brave and necessary.

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Emily Forbes


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