Everyone knows that Phylicia Rashad is the patron saint of all American Black children.
Who has not been anointed by her quick wit, blessed by her smile and reached a form of social salvation by her witness as Claire Huxtable on the hit series, The Cosby Show?
We all have.
And so it is only right that her daughter Condola Rashad finds herself in line to become venerated. In the new Broadway play Saint Joan, Rashad stands on her own and delivers a Tony worthy performance as the 15th century french saint. Produced by the Manhattan Theater Club, Saint Joan will run now until the 10th of June at The Samuel J. Friedman Theatre in New York and has been met with raved reviews.
But one has to ask…
Why would a successful company like MTC cast Rashad, a Black woman, as the lead of this story about a European farm maid turned saint?
( Let’s be real… are we gonna just act like she ain’t one of the finest melanin popping sisters on Broadway keeping the Great White Way… well a little less White?)
Well after seeing the play in previews, the answer is quite clear. The three-times Tony nominated thespian is a bonafide star, and her gift elevated her beyond her race- allowing you to see past the color of her skin and dive into the content of her skill as a story-teller. She was fresh. She was convincingly vulnerable, innocent and fearless… most of all she was bad-assed! (Wait can I say that… Blessed Mother cover me)
She wasn’t just bad-assed all by herself? The cast exquisitely supported her in telling this great story of mission and faith.
The story laid out the struggle of a young woman that had the allure and God given power and charisma to influence a nation- a nation that hated that they were under the “spell” of this “witch.” Based on the marvelous and tragic life of Joan of Arc, the producers were not afraid to show the complexity of characters. Every villain wasn’t a villain and every saint well… wasn’t what they thought a saint should and would be. Actors like Russell G. Jones, Walter Bobbie, Adam Chanler-Berat, Jack Davenport, John Glover, Patrick Page, Daniel Sunjata and Maurice Jones baptizes us in the waters that even in the 21st century, women in ministry face: God speaks to women, but do we really believe that.
Written Nobel Prize and Oscar winner George Bernard Shaw with direction by Tony winner Daniel Sullivan, some how the pain of hearing God in a patriarchal world that chalks it up to either arrogance, lunacy or magic is conveyed in a way that is not damning to men. Men sometimes because of their socialization don’t know they are being religious pricks. Black women preachers, who serve in similarly oppressive environments, will find voice through Rashad’s portrayal of this young girl. Heck… should Cardi B buy a ticket, she will also associate her struggle as a woman in Hip-Hop. What this cast and crew has done by giving this generation a true example of listening to the inner voice (called it God or whatever) is saintly and deserves a headnod.
The courage of the producers (and you should you decide to go) is indicative of those who understands the importance of womanist virtue in images that flash across the new media, screens and of course the stage and you too would get a headnod.
St. Joan is delightful, powerful and a must see.