Naima Dawson is a published author, Chicago playwright, and professor. Her career accomplishments cover more than 20 years in Arts Entertainment. Her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Columbia College Chicago and her Master of Education from DePaul University solidifies her ability to bridge the two worlds between Arts and Education. She is the writer and producer of Your Call! Late Night Improv & Sketch Comedy for Grown Folks, as seen in production at the Apollo Theater and The Mercury Theater.
Wandachristine in BEAUTY’S DAUGHTER. Photo by Michael Brosilow.
Playwright Dael Orlandersmith shows her gift for writing with rhythmic expression — using poetry between personal narratives — in BEAUTY’S DAUGHTER. She is strategic about how she unpacks personal history. Her stories pinch at things people want to forget. She looks for ways to resurrect one’s spirit from years of corrosion and pain. I have had the pleasure of seeing Orlandersmith perform STOOP STORIES, and she is captivating to watch as she awakens each character in her own one-woman performances. It is no surprise that her play BEAUTY’S DAUGHTER forces the audience to travel with this one character who is looking from within to find her way through life’s dark moments.
Under the direction of the remarkable Ron OJ Parson, BEAUTY’S DAUGHTER is told by one woman — Wandachristine — through six characters. Navigating an audience through six personas while giving each their own unique voice is no easy feat, but Wandachristine finds a way.
Diane, the main character, who all the other characters are connected to, is a vibrant 35-year-old woman who is shuffling through her past as she reflects on life from her the view of her East Harlem apartment. Diane has this saying about how when life gets heavy she “slides.” She “slides” because she is no “punk ass bitch.” She says will never get caught wearing her feelings on her sleeve or succumbing to her emotions, when in fact it’s just the opposite for Diane. Her “slide” tactic to avoid all things that bring her fear, reeks of being a punk. Diane would rather walk away than deal with the gritty parts of life.
There are internal issues Diane must resolve to move forward and stop her escape. Wandachristine works in a rhythmic cadence that dances between the poetry of telling her story of a broken woman, and a tumultuous journey through her past that is tucked under tongues that hold secrets. BEAUTY’S DAUGHTER is all about the fight to free one’s self of the weight that holds tight to a person’s existence. Each character is looking to be liberated from someone or something.
Wandachristine has great moments throughout. She works the entire stage and has the natural ability to illuminate an audience with her candid humor. She masterfully includes them when necessary. However, there is so much packed tight into this 90-minute performance, that some might feel overwhelmed. The poetry intertwined throughout moves fast. It needs more room to breathe so that the audience can make the necessary connections. And then, there are a few slow moments where characters feel redundant in theme.
What BEAUTY’S DAUGHTER does well is explore the importance of finding peace and not allowing anyone to disturb that peace. It grabs the audience through the somersault performance of six characters told through one compelling actress. Any audience will thoroughly enjoy Wandachristine and the energy she brings to this play.