Magic sometimes springs from little theaters. In the case of “Indigo Blues,” magic flies. A story set in the deep South about two sisters who love the same man, the play offers lives as complex and intertwined as in the best of Tennessee Williams. Passions and anger run deep, and playwright Judi Ann Mason provides language both fierce and fertile.
After their brother’s funeral, Clara (Tanya Boyd) and Muriel (Elayn Taylor) return home where Muriel decides enough’s enough. She’s not going to be a school teacher anymore. She’ll return to blues club singing like she did 30 years earlier, before her father whipped her and made her become something “respectable.”
Clara does not believe Muriel, nor does she want Muriel to even think of leaving. Like Blanche Dubois in Williams’ “Streetcar Named Desire,” Clara has spent years not only competing with her sister but also perfecting a deadly beauty–now fading despite her best attempts. For Clara, Muriel’s unhappiness and presence is a kind of living trophy to her wily ways. The local pastor, who sees her on the sly under the guise of the church, is another trophy.
But her brother’s death has been a wake-up call for Muriel, who wants to succumb to her yearnings and break free from her bonds of family duty.
Back into their lives marches successful musician Moses Britton (Robert Gossett), who had deeply loved Muriel and relished playing his saxophone with this “college-educated blues woman who, when she sings, the angels in heaven take note.” But he had also betrayed and crushed her by marrying Clara. After three days of marriage to Clara 30 years earlier, however, Moses realized he had destroyed his life, and he fled, only to return now for the funeral.
Playwright Mason presents the perfect triangle. Muriel wants nothing to do with Moses. Clara requires him desperately. Moses only desires Muriel. When Clara tries to have him comment on her attractiveness, Moses instead compares her to an old shoe which has “been tried on and taken off so many times by so many people, you have no sole left.”
Every detail in the play fits like the pieces in a hand-carved chess board, from an accident on the railroad tracks to the gun in Clara’s drawer. Director Michele Martin ensnares the audience with fine performances from a well-chosen cast, and she keeps tight control on the action.
As Muriel, Elayn Taylor rekindles the lost light within her character and shows Muriel as a woman who, when she makes her mind up about something, does it. Muriel may have quashed her soul for three decades and lived with a spidery sister, but she will now be true to her own spirit.
Tanya Boyd, who at first glance seems too young for the role of Clara, reveals a mentally ill woman who has created enough of a cover of normality to exist without being shuttled off to a home, her sexuality still a draw for the married pastor who exists offstage.
Robert Gossett brings a presence as powerful as the other two. As Moses, he wheedles and charms with his saxophone, admits his earlier failures and tries to get Muriel to trust him again.
Greg Gardiner’s light design, with its many subtle effects, and Erik White’s set, accented with a blue cyclorama, evoke a southern parlor.
Add to this the poetic wailings of Leslie A. Jones’ saxophone music (Jones plays live throughout) and Taylor’s singing voice, the evening becomes perfection.
Richard Larimore’s crisp sound design and Neda DeMayo’s costume design, which contrasts dowdy with bright, lends to the play’s richness.
One can imagine “Indigo Blues” moving across the country and into larger theaters.