Of course, much of this show feels outdated; a lot has happened since 1976, when for colored girls first played on Broadway. In the intervening years, black women have been given more venues in which to speak out and reveal themselves. But while many things have changed, others have stayed the same. On the night I attended, the audience found plenty of opportunities to laugh and hoot appreciatively and understandingly at the characters' experiences with the men in their lives, from one woman's story of the evening when she lost her virginity to a group diatribe about the lousy excuses that men tend to give for their behavior.
The women -- who are identified by color, not of their skin but of their clothes (Lady in Red, Lady in Purple, etc.) -- are played by an exceptional ensemble of actresses: Juanita Amonitti, Shelita Birchett, Jennifer Bragg, Erika Ewing, Victoria Gonzales, Nadine Mozon, and Penwah. Each brings something special to the production, most notably Penwah, who is both charming and commanding as the Lady in Yellow; Bragg as the Lady in Green, who speaks volumes with her eyes; the energetic Mozon as the Lady in Blue; and Amonitti, who presides over them all like a den mother as the Lady in Brown.
Michael Leland has directed and choreographed the production with sensitivity. The pacing is a bit slow, especially since there is no intermission to break up the two-hour running time. Also, the show includes some dense, image-filled poetry that isn't always easy to decipher. But when Shange's words hit, as delivered with conviction by these seven women, they hit hard. Among the highlights are a poem about the isolation of living in Harlem; a story about a girl who has Haitian liberator Toussaint L'Ouverture as an imaginary friend; an ensemble piece in which the women recite variations on the line "my love is too delicate to have thrown back in my face"; and the hopeful ending, when the women declare, "I found God in myself and I loved her, I loved her fiercely."