FROM THE MISSISSIPPI DELTA, Kuumba Theatre Company, at Malcolm X College. Kuumba Theatre has returned to celebrate its 30th-anniversary season with a sturdy revival of a stirring survival saga. In this burning memoir, Endesha Ida Mae Holland spills her life story, from rape victim to prostitute to civil rights worker to American studies professor, with heartbreaking specificity and complete conviction. Most memorably the play recalls the author's mother, Ida Mae Holland, a woman who headed north but never got there, spending her life in Greenwood, Mississippi, ironing white people's clothes, running a boardinghouse, and serving as a midwife to women abandoned by the white medical establishment. Ida Mae Holland, who initially opposed civil rights workers for stirring up trouble, died in a fire set by the KKK. The mother's courage inspired the daughter to fight for the rights Ida Mae never knew.
Though not as spontaneous or tight in its ensemble work as Jonathan Wilson's magnificent 1990 staging for Northlight Theatre, Mical Whitaker's production respects the play's power to shake an audience. Kuumba founder Val Ward roots its reality in Ida Mae's indomitable spirit; she also has fun as the dangerously eccentric neighbor lady, who protects a water meter by hurling bricks at passersby. Carol Hall and Valarie Tekosky, dividing up the daughter, flesh out her complexity and deftly depict the town as well.