AND I AIN'T FINISHED YET, Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre. Poet-playwright Eve Merriam would have been pleased with this enthusiastic, semiprofessional production of her tribute to black women, And I Ain't Finished Yet. Director Phillip Edward VanLear and his ensemble embody the energy and spirit of umoja, the Kwanza precept of unity.
Fittingly, an improvised song-and-dance invocation of umoja opens the play. Celebrating black women's resistance to racism, Merriam's script weaves together the lives of six notable activists: entertainers Ma Rainey and Moms Mabley, civil rights workers Fannie Lou Hamer and Ida B. Wells, preacher Sister Tessie, and Klan resister Hannah Tutson. Although the portraits aren't detailed, a general sketch is given of each woman's history, as well as a moment of song, jokes, or testimony that shows her "working." Rachel M. Hemphill, Alicia Chapman, and Renee Lockett-Lawson deliver standout performances as Wells, Hamer, and Tutson.
Under VanLear's direction, Evanston's Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre is working toward Equity status. This production is a promising start, combining local professional and amateur performers in a jubilant, solid ensemble that celebrates community without the half-baked feeling of community theater. --Carol Burbank