I recently had a chance to attend Katori Hall’s new play Saturday
Night/Sunday Morning. The performance is currently running at the
Steppenwolf Garage Rep February 15th through April 19th. It is one of
three plays currently being featured by the Prologue Theatre Company. I
actually went to the Steppenwolf Theatre and they were kind enough to
direct me back 500 feet to the Garage Rep. It reminded me of a
speakeasy as I waited to be let in before the show started, soft couches
and chairs with a small bar area. Behind the dark drapery is a cozy
stage area which provides for intimate seating.
Saturday Night/Sunday Morning takes us back in time to World War II and
the deep South. A time of segregation that saw so many African-American
men go off to war and fight for the freedom and liberty of being a man
that they were still trying to experience in this country. A time where
segregation made for many black entrepreneurs, while strangers looked
out for one another like distant family members. In some ways, it is
hard to image showing up in a city and staying at a stranger’s home, but
that was what so many black travelers had to do.
Miss Mary is a grieving widow who has opened her home up to boarders, a
common practice back then. She is a resourceful survivor whom runs a
beauty parlor out of her home. Taffy and Mabel are sisters whom could
not be more different. They are not only renters, but Miss Mary’s
shampoo girls. Her other boarder, Leanne, is a classic southern belle.
She is constantly reminding everyone that she comes from a monied
family. Gladys, a young educated girl comes looking for a place to
stay. Miss Mary rebuffs her request as she has no more empty rooms, but
Leanne takes a liking to her and offers to share her room.
In some ways, the characters reminded me of Steel Magnolias and The
Women. The archetypes are familiar, but balanced. It would be very
easy to take a character like Mabel or Leanne and go over the top with
them. We have so many iconic images from this time period, but it was
good to see another perspective on how the war affected black women.
How did women go on when there was no one to marry or the bread-winner
was no longer there! Watching this play felt like I was getting a
glimpse into my grandmother’s generation. Women going out into the
workforce was going to be the new norm.
I really enjoyed the writing and the actors did a phenomenal job. I
highly recommend that you go see Saturday Night/Sunday Morning. The
tickets are extremely affordable and you will have a good time. The
play touched on so many issues about how we communicate in our
relationships and being a friend. I saw many parallels in the life many
black women are living today with the lack of available black men. Same conversations could be had in a beauty salon today! The war just changed its face to incarceration, poverty, and violence.