In the Blood introduces a modern Hester Prynne | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

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In the Blood introduces a modern Hester Prynne

She's got a lot more to handle than a scarlet letter.



In The Blood is an adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne's masterwork, The Scarlet Letter, in which Hester Prynne is required by the leaders of Puritan Boston to wear a letter A to identify her as an adulteress after she gives birth to a child while her husband is away. Suzan-Lori Parks, a 2002 Pulitzer Prize winner, updates the story to include five bastard children who have different fathers. Hester Prynne (played by a phenomenal Nyajai Ellison) is now Hester La'Negrita, an illiterate African-American woman who is unable even to write the letter A but is determined to provide for her children.

Hester is emotionally and physically misused by those who claim to care about her: they look down upon as a menace to society and seek to fix her to the point that she can never make another mistake again. Parks's repeated use of the word "otherness" is a compelling example of how humanity frowns upon those that are “different.”

The play is jam-packed with overt and uncomfortable scenes.If you can get past the many blatant attempts to shock the audience, however, you will see the message that Parks is trying to bring to the light. Whether you believe it’s either "morbid intensity" or "indigenous and masterly"—as critic Edwin Percy Whipple wrote of the original Scarlet Letter—is up to you.   v

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