God's Trombones | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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God's Trombones, Bryn Mawr Theatre.

Several cast replacements and the absence of a key cast member because of an automobile accident made for a rather tentative production of God's Trombones, adapted for the stage from the poetry suite by James Weldon Johnson. But even with the glitches in this evening of verse and music there were touches of inspiration. Walter King Jr. restores delight and wonder to "The Creation" through sleight of hand, conjuring up light, water, blooming flowers, and flying birds. Ruth Miller's impassioned "Listen, Lord" --an invocational prayer performed in a hybrid of singing and chant-ing--is a powerful, virtuosic vocal piece. Wayne Scott Williams delivers a ripsnorting carpe diem caveat in "The Judgement Day," and Lorraine Digby a moving plea in "Let My People Go." But Wendell Jackson's coloratura "Go Down Death" and Latoya Campbell's hyperemotional "The Crucifixion," both presented as illustrations of black oratorical styles, coast on interpretive embellishments and virtually obliterate the text.

God's Trombones, like Bryn Mawr Theatre's debut production of James Baldwin's The Amen Corner, is an ambitious project for a company seemingly uncertain of its goals and resources. This group needs to find its own pace, possibly slow down, and make its next project less precarious.

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