Chin begins her story in her Jamaican childhood. Growing up with a relative that enforced strict hatred of unwed pregnancy, with her mother being the primary sinner, Chin is relieved to discover that she is a lesbian. Though an engrained and legally fortified homophobia in Jamaican culture, as well as Chin’s outspokenness for LGBT rights, renders her an easy target. She is sexually assaulted by classmates, and flees to America.
While in America she marries a gay man and, living with his mother, they develop their home and ideals. Then, tragedy strikes when her husband passes away swiftly from cancer just before his thirtieth birthday. She continues her journey to find a new partner, and more pressingly, have a child through a sperm donor. Both quests are more difficult that she’d imagined. But, with her focus no longer split, she fights for her pregnancy, nearly bankrupting herself in the process. Through a near miscarriage, ceaseless nausea, and the animosity of many, she gives birth to her daughter. The play then follows her journey into motherhood where she negotiates between committing to her life's authenticity and ambitions with care for her daughter.
Staceyann Chin’s presentation is unrelenting. Direction by Cynthia Nixon has her whirring through the space at a breakneck speed. Nearly every moment was delivered with the enthusiasm of someone recounting the plot to their favorite movie. More often than not this proves effective.
Nearing the end of the play, when recounting of her history gives way to examination, her passion is given something more internal to fuel. The first act, though phenomenally worded, is performed with such density that the information isn’t given the space necessary. Chin’s performing of the life experiences as being within them while commentating on it with text lacked the depth that cool present reflection might hold. Information is given without the space for consideration offered by the event’s occurrence in the past. I don’t doubt that this barreling forward through her misfortunes is anything other than the most authentic Staceyann Chin.
Set Design by Kristen Robinson is vibrant and multi-purpose. A circular orange couch, and a low rising archway serve as Chin’s playground. Akua Murray-Adoboa’s costuming design presents Chin as a fashion conscious anarchist. As in all things with Chin’s life there appears to be attention to detail in this madness. Sound design by Elisheba Itoop was able to shift scenes as suddenly as Chin, without overpowering the scene. Dante Olivia Smith’s lighting design makes one think of how a radical artist enclave’s nursery might be lit.
Staceyann Chin believes in what she preaches and practices it. For those lucky enough to agree with her, this creates a sense in the power of art in the hand of the believer. Her ability to cultivate beauty in her life that has been blocked time and time again with ignorance and fear, is a sermon for which this village theatre has smartly created a pulpit.