Coffee Will Make You Black

Adolescent Stevie (Diona Reasonover) doesn’t know if she’s a virgin or not — or even what a virgin is. This special innocence will cling to her over the next few years as she makes and loses new girlfriends, none of whom can understand why she hasn’t slept with a boy by the time she’s 17. Stevie’s conflicting quest for coolness, friendship and love forms the play’s center, but Michael A. Shepperd’s comedy drama, adapted from April Sinclair’s 1994 novel of the same name, is also a celebratory mural of black Chicago neighborhood life in the late 1960s. Stevie’s world rests on her family, embodied by Mama (Cecelia Antoinette), her best friend Carla (Charlene Modeste), and the young men who attract and repel her (Deon Lucas, Theodore Perkins and Damani Singleton). Director Nataki Garrett is thoroughly attuned to the book’s time and milieu, and his robust ensemble, led by the likable Reasonover and supported by Colette Divine in several powerhouse characterizations, creates an electric evening. The show does run somewhat long and has room for improvement, as, on opening night, a couple of actors either occasionally stumbled or delivered unfocused line readings. More structurally problematic, Act 2 becomes a little too schematic in tying in the turbulent awakening of black pride with the characters’ lives. Still, if I were to never review another play, I’d consider myself lucky to have seen this production. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: April 18. Continues through May 25, 2008


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