3/31/2021 MIRANDY AND BROTHER WIND Synchronicity Theatre
AND THAT’S ALL I GOTS TO SAY
(Note: This production is available as both a live in-person event and as an on-demand video. This review is based on the video version.)
Mirandy and Brother Wind started life as a 1988 picture book by prolific BIPOC author Patricia McKissack, who wrote several other books centering on Southern African American girls and “written in an old style of African-American Vernacular English.” It was adapted into a one-act musical in 2011, which now cakewalks onto Synchronicity’s stage and onto our streaming screens.
It is 1906 in the rural community of Ridgetop SC. It is a year of racial violence in Hamburg and in Atlanta, but here, insulated from big towns and big anger, “There’s no time for that,” as chores need doin’. Besides, the annual cakewalk contest is comin’ and Mirandy desperately wants to win that many-layered cake with vanilla icing, so would much rather be off practicin’ her steps than helping Ma Dear and Grandmother Beasley with the laundry and the yard sweepin’. If only she could capture Brother Wind and force him to be her partner, she’d be sure to win!
But it’s only a single generation from slave days, and Grandmother believes “forcing anyone to do anything” is not the best use for a young girl’s imagination, and “that’s all she gots to say,” a favorite phrase that always seems to precede much more to say.
Will Mirandy heed the wise lessons of her elders and partner with the shy and clumsy Ezel, even though she’d have to teach him to both walk and dance? Will the rowdy Orlinda succeed in her Sadie-Hawkins pursuit of Monroe and take the cake for the second year in a row?
Well, now it would be a sin against storytellin’ for me to tell, and that’s all I gots to say!
Mirandy and Brother Wind is an energetically alive little show, filled to the brim with song and dance and earworm tunes (I challenge anyone to clear “Hambone” out of their brains after watching), and left me with a warm and rapturous feeling of joy, not to mention a craving for a many-layered cake with vanilla icing AND a desire to run in an open field with the wind as a dance partner. It is filled with down-to-earth characters whose love and joy are anything but earthbound, and it is a gentle reminder that “growing up” is not the chore the young imagine it to be. Sometimes, all it takes is making a kind choice rather than a selfish one.
And this cast succeeds in creating a multi-generational roster of characters, despite being similarly aged themselves (that is, too young for the old folks and too old for the kids). Dionna D. Davis (Mirandy) especially captures that energy and blind-to-all-else determination that characterizes the young (and sends us elders to the nearest liquor cabinet). Drieka Lloyd is also sensational as the flirty Orlinda, as is David E. Wells as the object of her pursuit, Monroe. Both are athletically impressive dancers (Ms. Lloyd has a high kick that threatens the lighting grid and Mr. Wells flips like an Olympic gymnast). As the shy Ezel, Jarius Cliett is a warm and fuzzy teddy bear with a ton of likeability.
As the older generations, Loren Bray doubles as Ma Dear and as the “Voodoo Woman” Ms. Poinsettia, Adam Washington doubles as Brother Wind and the kindly Mr. Jessup, and Terry Henry brings a ton of gravitas and dignity and appeal to Grandmama Beasley.
The entire cast is to be especially commended for making the whole thing work, despite the encumbrances of COVID-Safety face shields, which eventually just seem no more than an “interesting costuming choice” and not the distraction they were in previous events. And congratulations also to sound designers Jeremiah Davison and Johnathan Taylor for erasing that “hollow” tone that too often comes with videos of face-shielded singers.
The show is directed by Taryn Carmona and choreographed by Kimmie Gee, who are true stars, keeping the movement constant (but not distractingly so), the pacing fluid and lively, and the overall tone folksy and rural. Kudos also to Music Director John-Michael d’Haviland for creating and maintaining that Appalachian tone so critical to setting the time and place.
Mirandy and Brother Wind is whirlwind of energy and appeal, keeping a light touch with its “lessons,” and focusing on the excitement of community and dance and imagination. It is sure to appeal to anyone who, as a child, slogged through the endless time BEFORE a highly-anticipated event, and to anyone who has ever just cut loose and danced with the wind.
And that’s all I gots to say!
-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com @bk_rudy #SynchroMirandy )