There's something beautiful and universal about the human spirit that shines through pain and indignity -- even when the humans in question might not be of your race or gender.
Director Daniel Boisrond has done a masterful job of capturing that spirit in a moving production of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf, being staged at Breakthrough Theatre in Winter Park.
The show is a 75-minute series of overlapping poems, each dealing with aspects of life as a woman of color -- rape, abortion and abuse, but mixed joyfully with singing, dancing, loving and living.
The words of Ntozake Shange flow like sweet tea on a hot summer day as the women, identified only by a color, tell their tales.
They're no-holds-barred, emotional tales, and the more the women get caught up in the power of Shange's words, the more effective their presentation.
Evelyn Tyler, as Lady in Red, is a standout, both in a story of a woman ending an unfulfilling affair and in a grim tale of domestic abuse that had the audience murmuring in sympathy and shock.
Debra Foxx, as Lady in Brown, has fun with her tale of an 8-year-old with an imaginary friend, displaying comic timing and a way with accents.
And Felichia Chivaughn, as Lady in Green, works herself into a steel-jawed fit of righteous anger at a man who "stole her stuff," about much more than material possessions.
The simple, effective costuming complements the play's female slant: Each actress wears feminine scarves, hoop earrings and eye shadow in her signature color.
Not all of Shange's poems pack the same punch, and once or twice, a harsh lighting change breaks the spell of the words. But as long as the actresses, who also include Shellita M. Boxie, Kisha Peart, Charmion Sparrow and Vanessa Valdez, radiate the joy of sisterhood through their laughter and encouraging shoutouts -- "That's the way you do it, mama! -- the play's fierce message is sustained.
For Colored Girls was mounted on Broadway in 1975 and with a beating drum and a prayerlike circle it still has the aura of the women's lib and black-pride movements around it. Yet the men in the opening-night audience -- and, yes, there were some -- were laughing, sighing and engaged in the messages from the stage.
Because, of course, that's the thing about the human spirit: It resonates for all humans.
"Somebody, anybody sing a black girl's song," Lady in Brown pleads at the play's opening. And the beauty in that melody is we all can hear the music.
Check it out
What: For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enough, by Ntozake Shange
When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, through Aug. 1. Industry-night show: 8 p.m. Monday, July 26.
Where: Breakthrough Theatre, 419A W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park
Cost: $18 adults, $15 seniors, $12 studentsCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times