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Rousuck's Review: "Hoodoo Love" at Arena Players

HoodooLove.jpg
Photo by David D. Mitchell
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It's Thursday, and Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom with her weekly review of a production lighting up one the region's many stages. Today, it's Hoodoo Love, a bluesy play (and one of the earliest works) by Katori Hall, being produced by Baltimore's Arena Players, the oldest continuously operating African American community theater in the United States.

Arena Players calls Hoodoo Love "a tale of love, magic , jealousy and secrets in...1930s Mississippi and Memphis. It is a blues story about having your dreams realized."  Reviewing its premiere in New York's West Village in October 2007, New York Times theater critic Stuart Miller described the play as "an unsentimental, even brutal look at black life in Memphis in the 1930s, the central female characters burdened by rape and betrayal."

One of Hoodoo Love's central female characters is Toulou, a young woman who fled an abusive family and the cotton fields of Mississippi to pursue her dream of becoming a blues singer.

“I love my people’s history,” playwright Katori Hall told the Times back in 2007.  Hall, who studied African-American culture and creative writing at Columbia University, added, “I feel a huge responsibility to tell the stories of my past and my ancestors’ past.”

Director David D. Mitchell leads the Arena Players cast, which features IO Browne (Toulou), Theresa Terry (Candylady), Quinton Randall (Ace of Spades) and Quincy Vicks (Jib).

Hoodoo Love is at Arena Playhouse, 801 McCulloh St., Baltimore MD 21201, through Sunday, April 29.   Tix and info here.

J. Wynn Rousuck has been reviewing theater for WYPR's Midday (and previously, Maryland Morning) since 2007. Prior to that, she was the theater critic of The Baltimore Sun, where she reviewed more than 3,000 plays over the course of 23 years. Her feature coverage for The Sun included a comprehensive series chronicling the development of the Tony Award-winning musical, “Hairspray.” Judy got her start at The Cleveland Press and at Cleveland’s fine arts radio station, WCLV. Her broadcasting experience also includes a year as an on-air theater critic for Maryland Public Television.
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