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A CurtainUp Review
Toulou is living with her man, blues singer Ace of Spades. Ace travels quite a bit, singing and performing on the road, and he doesn't bother to disguise the fact that he has a woman in every port. Toulou wants him to herself and enlists the help of her friend and neighbor, Candy Lady, an old ex-slave and voodoo queen. The voodoo backfires predictably, and yet in ways no one could have predicted.
Another plot strand has Toulou's brother shows up unexpectedly. He brings some very troubling memories from home. Toulou wants to break free of all this strife to pursue her dreams of becoming a blues singer. However, the ties of love and family exert their power. As her story unfolds, it touches on issues of race and gender relations, the history of blues music, the role of religion and the nature of love.
While there's music, this is not really a musical. It best fits the genre of a play with music. The songs — all written by playwright Hall— are the best part of the show, especially for blues fans. Actors Angela Lewis (Toulou) and Kevin Mambo (Ace of Spades) could easily star in any musical or concert calling for accomplished blues singers and guitarists. They have a great feel for the music and the emotions behind the words. The songs provide an excellent dramaturgical counterweight to the action.
Hoodoo Love runs long, especially for a play which at times suffers from too little in the way of forward action or thrust. It is nevertheless highly engrossing.
Robin Vest's set is original and warm, as is Pat Dignan's lighting. The characters are richly drawn and full of surprises, and they interact in some unpredictable but realistic ways. All four actors excel and exemplify outstanding ensemble acting, with Lewis and Mambo's vocals stealing the show on several occasions.
Lucie Tiberghien's direction highlights the music and the relationships. Sometimes this is to the detriment of the story development, but ultimately it all comes together.