Womyn in Three
nytheatre.com review by David Pumo
August 15, 2004
You have entered the Atomic Bar & Grill, a dive club in an alternative universe. The house band, Creatrix, fronted by lead singer Infinity Blue, will soon be joined by a band of gypsies who dance and sing as they take us on a journey that follows three souls reincarnating at different times in history, working out their karmic relationships, and teaching us about the interconnectedness of all people and things.
Cabaret-like setting notwithstanding, Womyn In Three sure ain’t Kander and Ebb. It is, however, an interesting story, told with passion to spare, creatively staged and beautifully sung.
Okay, so you’re not necessarily into the whole new-age-reincarnation-karmic-retribution thing. No matter. Hey, you don’t have to like the Salvation Army to enjoy Guys and Dolls. There’s enough going on here to keep you more than entertained. If it opens your mind and gets you thinking about the nature of the universe, that’s icing.
The book is strong and well-paced, taking us from the European witch-hunts of the 1500s, to a slave plantation in the American South, to an indigenous American tribe. Three souls reincarnate and unknowingly meet each other in these three settings. Their relationships and the power dynamics between them change each time. The three “souls” are played by different actors in each “lifetime,” making it a little confusing to keep track by the third incarnation. This is important in order to follow the thread of each soul.
The music throughout—it is almost an opera—is soulful, bluesy rock, played solidly and sung by strong and powerful voices. One of the strongest belongs to Caren Lyn Manuel as the storyteller, Infinity Blue. Manuel also wrote the book, music and lyrics. This is an impressive feat. Nearly two hours of music here, there is nothing that feels like filler, and many songs that are outstanding, with memorable melodies and hooks. Despite the number of times her name appears in the program, Manuel doesn’t try to steal the show, but instead writes generously for the many unique voices she has assembled.
The ensemble, including four hard-working dancers, dress in eclectic costuming and makeup, with pieces representing the cultures of the stories, mixed with 70s/80s hard rock, Latin (Manuel’s stunning dress), sixties accessories, and one Eryka Badu wig. It’s all fun and sexy, and great that no two performers are the same color, shape or size. Manuel—currently in Rent and opening soon in Brooklyn on Broadway—knows her way around a musical. She never lets the energy drop, and builds to a crescendo that had the audience on it’s feet. Let it lift you up too.