Whence Came Ye, Scarlett O'Hara O'Hanrahan?
nytheatre.com review by David Fuller
August 13, 2007
Whence Came Ye, Scarlett O'Hara O'Hanrahan? is a multimedia one-woman show written by and featuring Melle Powers and directed by Jeremy Brisiel, with video by Bill Doble. It is at turns laugh-out-loud funny, chuckle-funny, smile-humorous, poignant, and thought-provoking theatre that is thoroughly entertaining. Perhaps a tad long at 70 minutes, it still holds interest, as Powers takes us through an exploration into the origins of her character Scarlett.
At the start of the show, we find that we are in a waiting room at the Bronx Hall of Records. The number "Now Being Served" is displayed on the wall, and changes every now and then with the dinging of a bell. We've all been given a take-a-number slip with our program (a nice touch). 17-year-old Scarlett O'Hara O'Hanrahan is among us. In this massive melting pot that is New York City, the fact that she is of African descent is no big deal, but when she speaks, there is clearly something different that you don't see every day in the Big Apple: her accent. She tells us, in a nice Irish brogue, that she has journeyed here to find her birth parents. You see, Scarlett (named so because her mother's favorite movie is Gone with the Wind) has run away from her home in Ireland. Though she loves her adoptive parents, she yearns to find her African American roots. For a long time she has wondered such things as why she is the "one chocolate chip in the cookie dough," and why she is the "only person in three Irish counties who has any rhythm," or why she is the "only one back home who seems to enjoy being out in the sun." So, she (and the African American doll her parents had gotten her mail-order from the States) stowed away on a freighter and arrived in New York the morning of this day at the Hall of Records. While she waits to be called before a records clerk, she regales us (the waiting room crowd) with stories of her journey and the people she has met.
It's a clever concept that works well and gives us ample opportunity to see Powers's talent, as she becomes the half-dozen or so people Scarlett has met on her journey from 12th Avenue and 40th Street (the docks) to the Bronx. Among the characters are a streetwise male Ivy League dropout, a teen girl techno wiz, and a pop superstar. There's dancing (step dancing with soul) as well, with excellent choreography by Laura Danette and Jaime Skinner. And to help us visualize Scarlett's journey, there is a video projection of the various locales she encounters. There is even a wonderful live action-video interplay when Scarlett finds herself talking to a rather jaded newscaster in Times Square.
The evening is not just a clever bunch of characters, however. There is also a message at the end of the journey. Though it may seem a bit trite to world weary New Yorkers, I think it is nice to be reminded about the kind of lesson Dorothy learned when she got back from Oz.
I came away from this show extremely happy to have gone. Powers is an attractive gifted actor with an engaging, likeable personality. You really should see this show. Who knows, just maybe in a few years you'll be able to say you "knew her when."