Carleton Bluford's 'Mama' | Rose Wagner Center | Theater | Salt Lake City Weekly
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Carleton Bluford's 'Mama' Staff Pick

When: Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m., Saturdays, 4 p.m. and Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Feb. 22 2015
Phone: 801.355.ARTS
Price: $20
Plan-B Theatre says its production of Mama has the distinction of being the first world premiere by an African-American playwright in Utah history. It also has the further distinction of being an excellent play. It's shocking that this is Carleton Bluford's first full-length play, as it displays a structural dexterity and textual intricacy rare in veteran playwrights; for a first time out, Mama is a resounding success. Bluford seamlessly weaves monologues, found text and vignettes about the nature of motherhood under a variety of circumstances and its intersection in various ways with blackness. The deceptively loose structure is tied together mainly by the meta-theatrical device of Bluford reaching out to Facebook for stories about mothers (aided by projections). Director Jerry Rapier stages it in such a way as to put the focus squarely on the text with crisp, precise blocking and almost no set—other than chairs—with the actors costumed in neutral (but textually appropriate) black. This confidence in the material pays off, and the ensemble is well up to the task of flowing from one character to the next. Dee-Dee Darby-Duffin, William Cooper Howell, Latoya Rhodes and Elizabeth Summerhays all do terrific jobs with the text, embodying a variety of markedly different characters, and each shifting deftly between sympathetic and not-so-sympathetic characterizations without missing a beat. Their work is, in short, everything ensemble theatrical acting should be. Mama is a wonderful debut for Bluford (a talent to watch), and a thoroughly satisfying production that should not be missed. (Danny Bowes)
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