While the governments and white peoples of these United States have a long history of illegally seizing land from Native Americans, African Americans and anyone else in their way, a few hardy black folk successfully avoided this scourge by taking advantage of the Homestead Act of 1860 and setting up a farming community surrounding Nicodemus, Kansas.
Pearl Cleage's Flyin' West, now winding down its run by the Shadow Theatre Company, is the story of a small group of these people—four brave unmarried black women—who, despite the threats of white land speculators, rampant chauvinism and harsh winters, hold onto their dream of living free to develop as they wish.
Director Jeffrey Nickelson's insightful casting takes full advantage of Cleage's multi-layered script, allowing the ensemble to fully explore a story rife with the politics of sex, color and age.
Bea Parks, as the matriarchal grandmother of the clan, uses her remarkable comedic timing to give full force to the playwright's choicest lines. Adrienne Martin-Fullwood is powerful as the macho mulatto who provides the muscle for the group, while Rhoda Jackson luxuriates as the dreamy, willowy sister, and Sitira Pope exhibits full dramatic range as the sophisticated, yet battered, youngest sister.
The women's strong and thoughtful neighbor with a soft spot for the middle sister is a perfect fit for the detailed work of Dwayne Carrington. Finally, Damion Hoover is just the right combination of erudite egotist and cur to chill our spines as the evil mulatto husband. It is this last role which presents the play's greatest challenge in the form of classic villainy, however Nickelson's direction avoids most of the melodramatic pitfalls.
Nicodemus, Kansas still survives today as the only remaining western town established by African Americans during the Reconstruction Period following the Civil War.
Shadow Theatre Company's heartfelt and stellar production of Pearl Cleage's Flyin' West runs through March 10th. Most performances have been sold out, but you can still try the box office at 303-837-9355 or wait at the door for any cancellations.