Currently I’m reading a collection of essays by William Hazlitt (1778-1830).
Considered one of best essayists in the English language, Hazlitt (right) is not known for one particular book, but rather for his thoughts on a range of subjects and as one of the premier theatre critics of his time. He wrote “…the stage is a test and a school of humanity. We do not much like persons who do not like plays; and for this reason, that we imagine they cannot like themselves or anyone else.”
One reason that Hazlitt’s work resonates so strongly with me now (the right book at the right time) is that Denise and I happened to catch last weekend Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre production of Gut Bucket Blues. I am no Hazlitt, but if you are remotely interested in the blues, the intimacy of the theatre or the robust life of Bessie Smith, you should hustle down to the Balzer Theatre at Herrens to experience this performance which plays through November 7. (The matinees are relatively inexpensive and if you use the promo code of THANKS while ordering tickets here you should get another $5 off).
I was relieved that lead singer Adrienne Reynolds (right) did not try to sound like Bessie Smith (triggering a flashback I might have of David Sedaris singing “Away in the Manger” as a Macy’s Christmas elf ), and I liked the mix between narrative and music. And though it is story about one of the greatest blues singers, most of the musical numbers are more uplifting than melancholy. The production follows Bessie Smith’s (and her mentor, Ma Rainey’s) secret to onstage success: “Never have more than one of those blues bitches on stage at a time because it is too much misery for anyone.” If you’re not standing and clapping at the end of the performance you’re probably running on stage begging for an encore of “Hoochie-Coochie Woman.”
I would understand if Hazlitt would think little of my reviewing capabilities, but no one ever accused me of not liking the theatre, especially a show like Gut Bucket Blues.