Boogie-Woogie Landscapes -- At the Terrace Theater through June 19.
Ntozake Shange's litany of complaints is more cheerfully packaged than usual in "Boogie Woogie Landscapes," which the National Black Touring Circuit is performing at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater.
There is exuberant singing, dancing and story telling, and some stunning poetic imagery. There is also some surprisingly banal language, and a monologue in which hate has overcome reason to such an extent that barbarians who sew up women's sexual parts to preserve virginity are accused of thus causing their deaths in childbirth. But the balance of the materials is on the side of quality.
What is lacking is organization of this material. There is no point of view. Shange, the author of the acclaimed "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf," has countless viewpoints to express, all of them negative and most of them worth listening to, but no dramatic point of view in this play.
It is intended to be "one night of dreams and memories of a young woman who has grown up in America." But vague as that is, and open as it is to flexibility of time, the playwright does not abide by her own definition and observe any limitations of character or place.
The young girl who wears a flame-colored dress while everone else is in black-and-white -- there are endless puns about color -- represents, during the course of the play, a variety of ages, historical periods, classes and nationalities. She seems to be a young teen-ager at home alone, studying, but the complaints expressed in her memory-dream world skip about formlessly. One minute the problem is rural proverty, and the next it's that you can't get a conversation going at the breakfast table when everybody is engrossed in The New York Times.
When self-contained units sparkle -- as when Laurie Carlos does a child's tribute to a housekeeper, or Calvin Lockhart a poem about "Elegance in the Extreme" -- the loose setting doesn't seem to matter. But when attempts are made to be heavy and universal, there are some ponderous thuds.