Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
Also see Rebecca's recent review of Red Riding Hood
This excellent adaptation of Fauset's novel was created by Lane Savadove and the show's director, Walter DeShields. Plum Bun centers on the character of Angela Murray, a light-skinned African American woman who decides to pass for white in order to gain access to opportunities and privileges that are otherwise denied to her due to racial discrimination. After her parents pass away she abandons her sister, changes her name to Angel, and moves to New York City where she can pass without fear of being recognized. The play explores themes of race, identity and class, and raises important questions about the price of assimilation and the complexity of navigating multiple identities in a society that is structured around racial hierarchies.
DeShields' confident direction kept the audience engaged and the pace brisk. Alexandria Orr was phenomenal as Angela Murray, appearing understandably frustrated or simply misguided at some moments, and then downright self-centered if not completely evil at other times. Taylor J. Mitchell played Angela's dark-skinned sister Virginia with a sort of steady optimism that never veered into self-delusion. The Murray sisters' light-skinned mother was played by the talented June Patterson with beautiful sincerity. Kyson A. Martin was unassuming yet graceful as their father. Other excellent performances came from James Kern as Roger, the privileged jackass and oh-so-detestable villain, and Kylie Westerbeck who played jaded New York dilettante Paulette with buckets of authenticity and good humor. The entire ensemble was excellent, creating the intimacy of a small, tight-knit family and all the epic glory of being a young artist in New York City.
Dirk Durossette's minimalistic scenic design was dynamic, clean, and impressively evocative. Pamela Hobson's lighting design almost functioned as a part of Durossette's set design, adding a dramatic flare to the production. The terrific costumes were thoughtfully designed and executed by Don Allen.
EgoPo Classic Theater is a Philadelphia-based specializing in producing classic plays and adaptations of literary works. With Plum Bun, EgoPo was putting out exactly the kind of work that they do best. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I cannot wait to see what they do next.
Plum Bun ran through May 6, 2023, at the Christ Church Neighborhood House, 20 N. American St, Philadelphia PA. For more information, visit www.egopo.org.