“Milk Like Sugar” at Arts West

Choices! We all want the ability to make our own choices, sadly, not all of us have the experience to do so wisely. “Milk Like Sugar” powerfully explores a choice made by three teen aged, low-income, African American girls. These are vivacious young women, full of giggles, smart-aleck comments, pent up energy, and, unfortunately, a narrow worldview.

Their choice is to get pregnant. They love the idea of having a shower, of people giving them presents, of being the center of attention. Their thinking doesn’t go beyond the presents. Their environment and its institutions don’t offer them a larger dreamscape. Since their lives have been limited, so too must be their dreams.

Annie (Allyson Lee Brown), the protagonist, lives with an angry, defensive single mother who has a dead-end job that offers little pay and few rewards. Annie learns few valuable life lessons this overworked, disappointed woman.

This award-winning play raises issues that we ignore at our peril. There’s an entire cohort of young people in our society whom we are failing. Playwright Kirsten Greenidge inserts into her play potential escape routes from the inevitable, but she shows how difficult it would be for Annie and her friends to follow them.

One of the charming elements in the play is the inclusion of a sweet, innocent boy who has gained the ability to look beyond the ghetto. He’s interested in the universe, the stars that light up the dark sky. It’s a lovely metaphor and a shrewd inclusion within the script, cleverly brought to fruition on stage.

Nastacia Guimont (Margie), Allyson Lee Brown (Annie), Jay O’Leary (Talisha), and Lindsay Zae Summers (Keera)

Under the direction of Malika Oyetimein, the actors capture all the jive and speech patterns of the ghetto. Verisimilitude fully achieved! I did, however, have some difficulty understanding all the dialog. Perhaps it was my hearing, or perhaps it was because the ghetto vernacular was foreign to me. I found it interesting to read on-line that when the play was performed in D.C. the dialog was projected above the actors to make sure it was decipherable to all in the audience.

That aside, this is an interesting and timely exploration of what poverty and the lack of hope do to the human soul.

Through March 25 at Arts West Playhouse and Gallery, 4711 California Ave. SW, Seattle, (206 938-0339 or www.artswest.org)

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