Theater review: ‘The Bluest Eye’ at the Miles Memorial Playhouse


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Young Pecola, the doomed central figure of Lydia R. Diamond’s “The Bluest Eye,” now being presented by Phantom Projects Theatre Group at the Miles Memorial Playhouse, feels invisible. Born poor, “ugly” and black in post-Depression Ohio, Pecola prays to be white and blue-eyed. She feels if she is somehow miraculously transfigured, she might finally be loved.

Based on Toni Morrison’s debut novel, “Eye” is delivered primarily in monologue, reminiscent of an African American “Spoon River Anthology.” Diamond, whose brilliant “Stick Fly” cataloged the crises of the black elite, crafts a delicate period parable of a helpless child’s Stygian plight.

Pecola (poignant Sola Bamis) is trapped between her viciously warring parents (Shamika Franklin and Willie Mack Daniels). By contrast, prepubescent sisters Frieda and Claudia (Tiffany Danielle and Tekquiree Spencer, both excellent), have supportive parents (Johnnett Kent and Kwesiu Jones) who give the girls a strong base from which they can indulge in the mischief of ordinary childhood. Impregnated by her own father, rejected by her mother, Pecola is a tragic figure whose inwardly directed agony ultimately implodes into madness.

Danika Butler rounds out the cast in director Janet Miller’s solid staging. Miller struggles to compensate for a few weak links among her mostly excellent performers and largely succeeds, although her decision to have projected super-titles at cursory intervals seems anachronistically high-tech, considering the era.

-- F. Kathleen Foley

‘The Bluest Eye,’ Miles Memorial Playhouse, 1130 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica. 8 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends April 24. $22. (714) 690-2900. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes.