Theatre Review: One Woman Show Captivates Audience at Crossroads

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Crossroads Theater, never afraid to gamble, has hit a jackpot.

Written by Gabriellle Denise Pina, "Letters from Zora: In Her Own Words" is a witty, lyrical and clever monologue that has much to say, and says it wonderfully.

Theater is one of the last remaining mediums of culture where one must listen.

Pina knows this and her knowledge and skill as a storyteller was reflected at the East Coast premiere of Letters From Zora, a poignant and at times humorous account of Harlem Renaissance maven and prolific writer Zora Neale Hurston.

Letters from Zora begins with Hurston’s unremarkable beginnings in nineteenth-century central Florida, and moves on to her admirable quest for personal fulfilment that led her to teaching, anthropology and writing.

Director Anita Dashiell-Sparks made sure everyone in the theater accompanied Zora on her sojourn, a tale that had its diversions including: failed marriages, a falling out with friend Langston Hughes, belittlement by standard bearers Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison, and worst of all, the false accusations of an abysmal crime.

In spite of those things and remaining secure in her identity and individuality, the indomitable and somewhat restless Zora kept moving forward.

Under the skill of director Anita Dashiell-Sparks, Callaway provided her audience with an effervescent, sometimes irascible but always charming Zora.

Callaway’s strong stage presence created a relationship with each audience member that made them feel they alone were invited into Zora’s living room and that she was speaking to them personally.

With the support of Crossroads Theater and its backstage crew, these three women–the director, the playwright and the player–have given the American stage an interesting new work that needs to continue.

"Letters From Zora: In Her Own Words" runs through October 26.  For tickets, visit the box office or the theater’s website at crossroadstheatrecompany.org.