Reviewed by Gail M. Burns, August 2007

I am going to write a detailed review of this extraordinary production, but due to some personal stresses I am behind schedule with my reviews and this show only has one more performance here in the Berkshires.

If you have the time, please GO to the Daniels Arts Center on the Simon's Rock campus tonight (Friday, August 3) at 9 p.m. and shell out the super-affordable $15 for a ticket to see what I consider one of the best and most original pieces of theatre I have seen in a long, long time.

Based very loosely on Toni Morrison's 1983 short story of the same title, this collaborative work between performers Felicia Leicht and Audrey Pernell and director Adrienne Mackey focuses on the remembered friendship between two women during their elementary, high school, and college years. One is an olive-skinned Italian American (Leicht) and the other is a light-skinned African-American (Pernell). A chance encounter at the African American Museum in Philadelphia triggers a series of flashbacks to their years together - the things that bound them together like their wonderful long brown curly hair and their love of music, and the racial divide that separated them.

While many shows I see purport to be fusions of theatre, dance, and music, "Recitatif" really is. Both Leicht and Pernell are extremely talented actors, dancers, and spectacular singers. All of the singing is done a cappella and it is just extraordinarily beautiful, ranging from "Ave Maria" to soul-rocking spirituals.

Both actresses are on stage, in motion, for the entire 70 minute run of the show. The energy and talent is spell-binding, and the story they tell is tender, funny, and thought-provoking. You may feel a bit mystified for the first 10 minutes, but remember that this is a memory play and pay attention and you will figure things out quickly enough.

There is nothing here that children can't see, but it is an oblique and non-linear look at this relationship told in a disjointed flash-back format. I would not bring kids younger than high-school age or they will be confused and bored.

Recitatif runs through August 3 in the Daniels Arts Center on the Simon's Rock campus as part of the 2007 Berkshire Fringe Festival. The show runs 70 minutes and is suitable for ages 13 and up. Call 413-320-4175 for tickets and information.

copyright Gail M. Burns, 2007

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