A universally appealing
immigrant family drama
How Black Mothers Say I Love You tells a story of separation and reconciliation
By Byron Toben
In Theatre (as well as other forms of art), we best draw the universal from the particular. Hamlet, for instance, invokes more than how Danes respond to a royal death.
That thought occurred to me in viewing playwright Trey Anthony’s split immigrant family drama, How Black Mothers Say I Love You.
In this Black Theatre Workshop Production, the family is of Jamaican origin, ending in Canada. The mother, Daphne (Andrea Davis) left her two daughters in the Caribbean years earlier to establish a beachhead as a domestic worker in Toronto so they could eventually have a better life here. When the girls finally arrived, the older Valerie (Keren Roberts), cut out from Toronto to Montreal to pursue a gay life style.
The younger, Claudette (Dayane Ntibarikure) married a white man for whom she works at his company. Single mother Daphne had also had a third daughter, Cloe (Janita Shani Joseph) in Canada, who died very young.
Daphne is now dying from cancer and refuses chemotherapy. Valerie returns from Montreal.
A mute spectre of Cloe haunts Daphne’s apartment, a surrealistic element in an otherwise naturalistic kitchen sink setting. Bible touting mama disapproves of Valerie’s life style.
She finds it hard to verbalize her love, but it is expressed in her own sacrifice and hard work to give the gals a start in a better life. Woven into all this are some finger-snapping tunes and body shaking dance movements. A hat selection sequence provides humorous moments.
Cloe eventually leads Daphne to the other side. Director Tamara Brown, perhaps best known here for her acting talent, further enhances her growing directing credits as well as writing a touching message in the printed program.
Ms Anthony herself is multi-talented, being a motivational speaker and producer as well as a news contributor and a playwright. Her hit play, da kink in my hair, became a TV series.
How Black Mothers Say I Love You runs until March 16 at the Centaur.
Images: Andrée Lanthier
Byron Toben, a past president of The Montreal Press Club, has been WestmountMag.ca’s theatre reviewer since July 2015. Previously, he wrote for since terminated web sites Rover Arts and Charlebois Post, print weekly The Downtowner and print monthly The Senior Times. He also is an expert consultant on U.S. work permits for Canadians.