By Jake Robinson, September 20 2016 —
Theatre Calgary’s production of the ‘da Kink in my Hair will never have a full house this season. Not because it doesn’t deserve it — but because the show’s biggest fan can’t be there.
When actress Trey Anthony started her career in Toronto, she complained to her grandmother there weren’t roles for black women. Her grandma said, “Well if that’s the crap that they’re writing, then why can’t you write better crap?”
So Anthony did. Despite never having penned a play, she managed not only to write one, but one with staying power. Fifteen years later, it’s as relevant as ever.
Once staged, her grandmother attended every performance, sitting front and centre — not just to support her granddaughter, but to loudly correct actors when they got Trey’s brilliantly written lines wrong.
But ‘da Kink’s biggest and most vocal fan won’t be at any of the showings in Calgary, which runs until Oct. 1.
She died two years ago, and no one else will get grandma’s seat.The chair front and centre remains empty — or not, depending on your metaphysical world view.
A ticket to ‘da Kink in my Hair is one of the best purchases you can make this season, with tickets starting at $35.
Many pieces of theatre will claim to make you laugh and cry, but few will have you howling and clapping before the tears have dried on your face.
If you’ve ever been rear-ended in a car, you have a frame of reference for the emotional experience of ‘da Kink. It’s emotional whiplash.
The show is a series of musical internal monologues. Main character Novelette — played by Anthony — runs a hair salon presented as an intersection of culture and community rivalling the church.
Her magical ability is that by touching the hair of the women she styles, she knows their stories.
Each story brings tragedy and comedy together. The moments of levity let you surface and catch your breath before plunging back into the pathos.
The piece goes to uncomfortable depths, dealing with homophobia, racism, sexism and old people having sex with a glorious and hilarious turn by Brenda Phillips as horny grandma Miss Enid. Thanks to her, you’ll never look at sweet potato pie the same way again.
It’s easy to dismiss works of art aimed at amplifying the voices of the disenfranchised as being preachy. After all, most people don’t want to fork out the bucks to be told to feel bad.
But when people are complaining about something being preachy, they mean they dislike that it exists purely to moralize or reform the viewer.
‘da Kink is not that. It is first and foremost a beautiful piece of art. Full of rich, engaging, heartwarming and above all else, real stories. The kind of stories real women carry in your city, beside you on the train, behind you in line at the grocery store and even occasionally, at your hair salon.
‘da Kink in my Hair will play at the Max Bell theatre until Oct. 1. Tickets are available online.
Find more information and tickets at theatrecalgary.ca