Soul Rep Theatre Propels Mission of Telling Black Stories with 'Shakin' The Mess Outta Misery'
By Cristee Cook
Coming out strong from their successful 25th Anniversary 2020 season of hybrid performances, Dallas’ Soul Rep Theatre Company has opened their 26th Season with Shay Youngblood’s dynamic play, Shakin’ The Mess Outta Misery. Directed with heart and sincerity by Soul Rep Executive Director/Co-Founder Anyika McMillan-Herod, the company just closed a limited run of live performances at the Pavilion at Dallas Heritage Village. Continuing their hybrid model, the play will enjoy pre-filmed/virtual performances December 20-26, 2021.
Shakin’ The Mess Outta Misery continues Soul Rep’s tradition of telling Black stories. In the live performance I attended at Dallas Heritage Village, the set design and technical elements were sparse with a simple off-white backdrop and thoughtfully arranged black cubes. The simple set acted as a foundation for the lively story, which came to life with acapella singing. As actress Natasha Wells’ (Miss Corine/Miss Rosa) soulful voice began to sing out into the darkened performance space, I knew I was in for a powerful performance.
Woven together with music, songs, and stories, Shakin’ The Mess Outta Misery follows Daughter (Brittney Bluitt), the 25-year-old narrator, as she grows and learns about life through the stories from Big Mama (Monique Ridge-Williams), family members, and family friends. The play explores subjects such as life, death, sexuality, self-worth, and belonging through the rich and unified ensemble.
As Daughter, Brittney Bluitt commands the role’s requirement that Daughter must be both an observer and participant. Daughter learns a lot and comes of age in the play, but her youthful candor and sincere observations are also a powerful teacher in the story. Bluitt is a perfect fit and offers both wisdom and delight.
In the role of Big Mama, Monique Ridge-Williams is poignant, strong, and nurturing. During a short speech before the play, Director McMillan-Herod mentioned that the performance was dedicated to her own Grandmother. Big Mama is the grandmother everyone wants. Because I am lucky, I watched Ridge-Williams as Big Mama and missed my grandmother. I missed her humor, wisdom, and care, and remembered the power older women hold as matriarchs, mothers, and teachers.
Soul Rep Company Member Renee Micha’el plays crucial roles in the ensemble as Aunt Mae and Miss Shine. Micha’el is a class act as rough-around-the-edges Aunt Mae, and suspenseful, determined, and relatable as Miss Shine.
The ensemble of women models the themes in the play of unity, community, and family. Each actress brought a solid contribution to the story. As the narrative crescendos, together with Daughter, we begin to see some of the challenges that can arouse in life. The group of women in Shakin’ The Mess Outta Misery are a vibrant collective as we see healing, transformation, and togetherness.
Shakin’ The Mess Outta Misery has a ton of heart, and it will make you laugh a lot. The virtual streaming of the play will be available December 20-26, 2021. Grab your pass here: https://www.soulrep.org/our-season.
*This article was updated on 11/22/21 at 1:20 pm CST. The original dates for the virtual performances were incorrectly listed and the dates have been updated to the correct dates.