Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye is now at the F. Otto Haas Stage at the Arden Theatre Company until April 1.
The Bluest Eye has been adapted for the stage by Lydia R. Diamond. It is directed here by Raelle Myrick-Hodges in a compelling stylized production. Toni Morrison wrote The Bluest Eye in 1970. Playwright Lydia R. Diamond adapted the novel for the 2006 stage production in Chicago at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company. The Guthrie mounted another celebrated production of The Bluest Eye in 2017.
The story is about a young black girl challenged by dysfunctional parents, her relations with her foster family, and her coping with the widespread racism of the 1940s. Pecola Breedlove (achingly and truthfully portrayed by Jasmine Ward) dreams of having blue eyes like Shirley Temple and other Euro-American icons of the day because then she wouldn’t be invisible to the white people around her. We hear one of the girls express her anger over having a white doll which looks nothing like her. She mutilates it, and wishes she could do the same with real white girls. Powerful subject matter indeed. Only within the last generation have dolls expressed diversity so that children could see themselves reflected in their icons.
As oppressed people, the LGBT+ community can well understand this phenomenon. We never had role models on view until the 1990s, and, even then, they were often clichéd stereotypes. Only recently have millennials profited from positive LGBT+ role models in print, film, and TV. The psychic wounds the oppressed are forced to carry through lives which are ignored and demeaned are all painfully explored in the play The Bluest Eye.
The fine ensemble cast performed in-the-round, accommodating their art to the special challenges inherent without a proscenium. Opening night was cancelled due to the Nor’easter which hit Philadelphia, but performances are now continuing. Although not recommended for children, the LGBT+ theatre-goer will find much common ground on stage. You owe it to yourselves to see the raw, unvarnished tragedies of lives denied the air and water of life, stunting young humans and their natural growth, forever scarring them.
The Bluest Eye is at the F. Otto Haas Stage at the Arden Theatre Company, 40 N. 2nd Street, Philadelphia, until April 1. Remaining shows in the Arden’s 2017/2018 season include Snow White, a world premiere, April 4 through June 3, and Fun Home, May 17 through June 17. For information, visit www.ardentheatre.org .
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