The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God finds Rainey, played by Lucinda Davis, fighting to make her way out from rock bottom. Three years after the sudden and unexpected loss of her daughter, marred in a divorce and suffering from severe mental health issues you would typically find on a TLC show, Rainey finds herself back in her hometown, a small Cottage country town in Western Ontario along the shores of Negro Creek. It’s here where Rainey encounters a whirlwind of activity which draws her from out of her haunted past into the present and may just make her step away from the ledge.
The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God is a very ambitious project that The National Arts Centre English Theatre has decided to open their 2015-16 Season with. It’s a show that relies heavily on a very talented and enthusiastic chorus, who are on stage 99% of the time. It’s a show that has a fairly large cast and a unique group of different characters all with their own motivations and goals. It’s a show that runs nearly three hours long, yet within it’s extremely long run time has very little actual content. The plot of this play could be told in just over an hour if we were to cut out all of the singing and dancing, which while it definitely does add to the quality of the show, also makes the show drag out longer than it needs to be.
Despite the length and the sometimes dragging feeling, the talent on stage give amazing performances, especially from the three leads: Lucinda Davis (Rainey), Walter Borden (Abendigo) and Quincy Armorer (Michael). The dialogue itself is quick and witty, which very quickly pulls the audience in on the journey. We follow these characters as they question their cultural identity and its common misrepresentation, their Country and the still existing problem of racism within its borders, and their God and the trials and tribulations he challenges them with to test their faith and aptitude. It’s very easy to form emotional connections with each and every character very quickly.
The actual content of this play boldly addresses a lot of controversial subject matter around religious dogma, mental health, cultural assimilation, political correctness, and crime and punishment, and we the audience follow the characters down the rabbit hole as they stand up and fight for justice, emulating the Civil Rights movement of decades long past. Where the play lets the audience down is in its third act which resolves a lot of tension that the play has built between characters, without truly resolving anything.
It’s evident where the show is building to. It’s obvious what is going to come about in the Third Act, but it’s disappointing in how long of a setup it is to only beat the audience over the head with symbolism that we’ve been expecting since before the intermission. It’s not that this play needs twists or turns, but it takes an awfully long time to find an ending that is more symbolic than it is of resolve.
The a capella music and beautifully choreographed dancing is worth the price of admission alone, but the length and the frequency at which the action on stage is interrupted by the music definitely brings down its staying power, which was definitely noticed when after intermission I was the only one that remained from my row.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d like to know what you think. Which character did you identify with the most? What did you think of the live-animated soundtrack that accompanied the actors on stage? Join the discussion in the comments below.
The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God runs through November 7, 2015 at The National Arts Centre English Theatre. Tickets can be found here.