Blues States

The operative word here is “verbatim”: The Word for Word theater company performs short stories that way. In this case, the company takes on every single letter of Sonny's Blues, by the great American writer James Baldwin. To the uninitiated, the setup may sound odd, as if it would be awkward to hear actors finish sentences with “he said.” But the company is as powerfully talented on the boards as it is madly in love with every single word of its chosen material, and the effect is shockingly good. Sonny's Blues is a story about two brothers in Harlem in the 1950s, one of whom is a jazz pianist —music is a big part of bouncing this story off the page. For that, director Margo Hall has an ace in her pocket: Bandleader Marcus Shelby composed an original score. He performs portions of it live only once, after the show on Feb. 15 (chickadees, take your jazz man to that on the day after Valentine's Day and you can have anything you want for the rest of the year), but the blues, jazz, gospel, and more take the play to great heights every time.
Feb. 5-March 8, 8 p.m., 2008

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