Millennium Mambo, Goodman Theatre. Each segment of Regina Taylor’s one-woman show, an anthology of four short pieces by African-American women, ends with her breaking in some portion of the surrounding walls, allowing white light to pour through the opening. The symbolism is obvious but evocative, as is the rest of this multimedia staging. Linda Buchanan’s walls act as a blank slate on which visual images can be projected or drawn, and Max Leventhal’s video design, Joe Cerqua’s score, and Robert Christen’s lighting all enhance Taylor’s compelling storytelling, underlining a piece’s tone or offering the actress a new means of connecting with her tale.
Under the direction of Henry Godinez, Taylor fully inhabits each work, compassionately portraying the characters created by Kia Corthron, Adrienne Kennedy, Suzan-Lori Parks, and Ntozake Shange. We’re given insight into the actions of a vengeful mother, a suspicious street person, a sensual artist, and an angry cancer sufferer hoping to incinerate her past. The common thread is each woman’s struggle to control her own destiny, but these works also touch on racial injustice, the fear instilled by urban strife, and the characters’ search for safety or salvation.
The poem Taylor has written to weave the montage together speaks of shining black women weathering storms with fire in their eyes. And the fire that Taylor brings to this production–her smoldering strength, emotional depth, and physical fluidity–is captivating.