"Where We're Coming From" is the personal statement of two talented young black actresses who have thought about where they have come from and where they are going.
Charmaine Crowell and Maria Bryant gave a special premiere performance last night at the Paul Robeson Theatre, 1632 O St. NW. Unfortunately, it was a one-night stand; but fortunately there are plans for a return to Washington for other performances in the fall.
The two actresses have fashioned a theatrical collage depicting their experience as blacks, women and artists. But it is not essentially pro-black or pro-feminist. It is universal.
What they give us on the stage is a revue of songs, monologues, comedy sketches and, most powerfully, readings from great black writers like James Weldon Johnson, Gwendolyn Brooks, Langston Hughes and Paul Laurence Dunbar.
Crowell, with a strong face and the resonant voice of a gospel singer, gives a moving rendition of James Weldon Johnson's "Weep Not," in which Death is dispatched to bring Sister Caroline to Heaven. Bryant becomes the alcoholic tart of "Mama," oozing sexuality and bitchiness.
Intercut into the readings are some comedy sketches - including one hilarious skit on dialects in which Bryant tells how she had to learn cockney in acting school, but doesn't see how that is going to lead to any roles for her as a black actress.
The shifts in mood sometimes are too jarring, and the pace is erratic. But there are some fine moments when Bryant and Crowell turn to the language of the black poets.
Crowell and Bryant put together their two-woman revue after starring in the Los Angeles ACT production of the Tony award-winning "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow's Enuf."
"We don't want to waste our talents in exploitation roles," Crowell explains with conviction. "This is something we believe in. We got blisters on our feet handing out flyers at churches and community groups to get an audience."
On a cross-country tour with their production, they go next to New York City.