“Help you how? Tell me. Don’t be frightened.”—Soaphead Church
“My eyes.” — Pecola
“What about your eyes?” —Soaphead Church
“I want them blue.” — Pecola
It’s not easy reading Toni Morrison (February 18, 1931 – August 5, 2019). Her subjects detail the harshness and the utter disrespect of African Americans. However, she speaks the truth which is not always easy to swallow let alone process. The Bluest Eye is no exception. A dark skinned child Pecola desperately wants blue eyes. Like the character from her Dick and Jane books, Jane has it going on and her blue eyes are the key to happiness—or so she believes. Eleven-year old, Pecola Breedlove (played amazingly by Rodnesha Green) is living with sisters Claudia and Frieda Mac Teer (Briana Price and ReSheda D. Terry, respectively). Her alcoholic, aggressive father Cholly Breedlove (Marcus Clark-Oliver), burnt the family home. Pauline or “Polly” Breedlove (Nicole Danielle Watts) is his long suffering wife and Pecola’s mother. She escapes into the world of movies. She counts Clark Gable and Jean Harlow as her favorite actors. Her discomfort with her marriage has manifested into a disfigured foot, she stepped on a nail, and walks with a pronounced limp.
Pecola is constantly reminded by others how dark and ugly she is. The more she is told the harder she prays for blue eyes. She meets “spiritual” advisor and peddler Soaphead Church (Joshua Lamont is wonderful) who can guarantee her wish. All she has to do, he explains, is to give meat to his landlord’s dog. If the dog reacts from it, BAM! blue eyes are given. She does it but the dog has the opposite effect and she’s stuck with her black eyes. She learns from her community that she is not accepted or considered even human because of her dark skin. She has a picture of Shirley Temple in her room and constantly reads the adventures of Dick and Jane. She admires Jane and wishes to be accepted like her. Mrs. Breedlove recalls how difficult it was birthing Pecola. The doctor took one look and uttered “ugly.” Since then, Pecola has been of victim of self-hatred from the start. Her only “close” friends are the Mc Teer sisters, but they are no better that the adults. Claudia goes into gory detail in how she pulled apart her white doll’s body. She even detached the voice box. Pecola ends up pregnant by Cholly. Her mind is unable to handle the horrific tragedy. I think, her coping mechanisms heavily persuade her to believe that she got her wish of having blue eyes. That would explain why people around town stare down at her. She lost her childhood and her mind but, still believes that having blue eyes will save her.
This story is not easy to tell. Director Bernadette Speakes approaches the sensitive story into a delicate masterpiece. Incest, sexual abuse are not subjects to present carelessly. Speakes manner is tender and gentle but, still, gets the point across that this happens in all families. The Bluest Eye is the dream of a little girl to be loved and accepted and eventually comes to love herself. Instead, she’s a scapegoat for others to feel good about themselves when they see Pecola all dark with no light. Lydia R. Diamond adapted the 1970 book that doesn’t hold back both the external and internal racism. God bless Mr. Clark-Oliver for portraying such a disgusting and sickening human being. He, along with Pauline, are victims of the overt racism in Lorain, Ohio where the story is set, consequently, it’s where Morrison is from. I won’t lie, the story doesn’t end pretty or wrapped up loosely in a fancy bow. Honesty isn’t always good looking.
The Bluest Eye plays Saturday night, February 29th night at 8 p.m. and Sunday, March 1st at 3 p.m. at Hudson Backstage Theatre, located at 6539 Santa Monica Blvd in Hollywood. For ticket information log on to www.onstage411.com/thebluesteye.