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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Two Queens, One Castle

Also see Susan's review of Nevermore

Two Queens, One Castle
TC Carson and Felicia Curry
Based on the plot synopsis, Two Queens, One Castle sounds as if it’s going to be problematic: a musical about a gospel singer forced to accept the betrayal of her husband and father of her two children, who is also her manager, when he reveals he’s HIV positive, and the second revelation of his “down-low” gay life? But MetroStage in Alexandria, Va., brings this potentially preachy subject matter vividly to life under the watchful direction of co-lyricist and co-librettist Thomas W. Jones II. (The title, with its double entendre on the word “queen,” is perhaps the crassest thing about the play.)

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.

MetroStage
Two Queens, One Castle
January 18th – March 5th
Book and lyrics by Jevetta Steele and Thomas W. Jones II
Music by William Hubbard and J.D. Steele
Husband: TC Carson
Wife: Felicia Curry
Lover: Gary E. Vincent
Woman 1: Tracy McMullan
Woman 2: Monique Paulwell
Woman 3/Momma: Roz White Gonsalves
Directed by Thomas W. Jones II
Choreographer: Patdro Harris
Music Director: William Hubbard
1201 N. Royal St.
Alexandria, VA 22314
Ticket Information: 703-548-9044 or 800-494-8497 or www.metrostage.org


Photo: Leigh Mosley


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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