Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Two Queens, One Castle
Also see Susan's review of Nevermore
Jones co-wrote the musical with Jevetta Steele, whose own experiences provide the basis for her central character's journey. Rather than presenting a straightforward autobiography, though, she keeps things more general, making the story into a more universal search for identity and self-determination than might otherwise be thought from the specifics. The pulsating music by turns gospel, rhythm and blues, and jazz is by William Hubbard, who also leads the three-piece orchestra, and Jevetta Steele's brother, J.D. Steele.
The story begins with a young, innocent, church-going woman (Felicia Curry) falling in love with the handsome, charming, sophisticated young man who becomes her husband (TC Carson), as three women (Tracy McMullan, Monique Paulwell, Roz White Gonsalves) stand by, and the husband's unacknowledged lover (Gary E. Vincent) watches from the shadows.
The imagery of shadows and mirrors comes through in Daniel Conway's ingenious set, which centers around three revolving panels that become transparent or reflective depending on John Burkland's lighting design. Costume designer Jim MacFarland adds an almost subliminal touch: the costume palette begins with only black and white, echoing the heroine's naïve expectations of life, and doesn't blossom into color until she deals with the complications she never expected.
Curry's character matures from a virgin who believes in "happily ever after" with an apparently perfect husband, to a singer negotiating her way in the music business, to a woman fighting back from depression and an assault (literal as well as metaphorical) on her self-image. She meets the challenge brilliantly, embodying the role with each gesture and a vibrant singing voice.
Carson makes sure his character never becomes a one-dimensional villain; he ably lets his anguish over his repeated unfaithfulness (and not only to his wife) show through the cracks in his smooth façade. He also is a powerful singer and a charismatic presence.
Really, this production has no weak links. Two Queens, One Castle is one of those rare cases where everyone involved in the production - actors, musicians, designers is clearly part of an overall vision.