Ballahoo in the Theatre Cooperative
edited: Sunday, March 13, 2005
By Doug Holder
Not "rated" by the Author.
Posted: Sunday, March 13, 2005
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A play from the by Mary McCullough.
The Somerville News
Feb 5, 2005
“Ballahoo in The Theatre Cooperative”
“ Ballahoo in the Hair Kitchen.” A play by Mary Millner McCullough. Presented by The Theatre Cooperative. Feb 4-5 2005.
One of the great themes in the theatre of America and perhaps in the American theatre is the often painful assimilation of immigrant and other ethnic groups into the predominate cultural “melting pot,” of our nation. Somerville’s “Theatre Cooperative” presented a play by long-time Somerville resident Mary M. McCullough titled: “Ballahoo in the Hair Kitchen” that examines the conflicts of a group of southern black women as their way of life is changed by the march of the Civil Rights Movement and desegregation. The Saturday evening performance, Feb. 5, was peopled with many familiar faces from the community and friends and family of the playwright.
The play is set in 1963, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, in the town of Paradise, Virginia, a small, insular black community. The opening scene is devoid of characters. The silence is broken by the drone of old radio recordings of reportage of the events of the era like the: “Freedom Riders,” Martin Luther King speeches, and other high water marks in the struggle for equal rights.
Just as the audience is about to be lulled to sleep by these ancient and at times hard to hear broadcasts a hysterical black woman “Candy,” played by Karimah Saida Moreland,
bursts on the scene, yelling at some spectral dog “Ballahoo,” that haunts her day and night. Candy, a brewer of teas, an alchemist, who works with a variety of traditional African remedies; ministers to the sufferings of her oppressed community from her kitchen, the focal point of the play. It seems that Candy is changing her ways and is going to morph into a hairdresser. And indeed, the whole community is changing along with her. Within the confines of this kitchen, Candy, along with her friends Charity, played by Dosha Ellis Beard, a sexually-conflicted nun, J-Niece, played Michelle Dowd, a principled principal of a local school, and Myaa, played by Nicole Brathwaite, a young girl on the cusp of womanhood, play out a drama of a small black community being swept into the larger white world by the earth shaking force of the Civil Rights Movement.
Fortunately, McCullough is a skilled writer and has managed to flesh out these characters so they don’t become mere polemic stick figures. After a slow start, the play becomes heated and the complexities of these black women’s personal lives reflect the society -at -large.
After the play there was a Q and A session, where the audience was asked to provide feedback to the actors and other principals in the play. This play was part of the Theatre Cooperative’s “ “New Play Series;” a series created to help emerging playwrights. “Ballahoo” is a play much deserving of this creative nurturing.