From first glimpse of the enchanting set, audiences will be wholly transported into Olivier Award-winning playwright and Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater inaugural resident artist Katori Hall’s fierce comedy-drama The Blood Quilt.
The world premiere play threads together the past and present of four disconnected sisters gathered at their childhood home off the coast of Georgia. Uneasily assembled for a quilting ritual to honor their recently deceased mother, two generations of Jernigan women clash and embrace in interchanges uncomfortably recognizable to anyone with family. The stormy island setting parallels the turbulent relationships, with sibling tensions exploding into harsh truths, personal secrets, and raw revelations following discovery of their mother’s disruptive will. The troubling inheritance of the Jernigan’s “blood quilt” of history and ritual has the power to bind the sisters together or tear them apart forever.
Directed by Kamilah Forbes, the show features Tonye Patano as Clementine (the eldest sister), Caroline Clay as Gio (second sister, acerbic police officer), Nikiya Mathis as Cassan (Third sister, nurse and mother), and Meeya Davis as Amber (the youngest and odd one out, the modern success story), alongside the youthful foil of Afi Bijou as Zambia, Cassan’s teenage daughter.
Audiences should run, not walk, to The Blood Quilt. In a transforming world, the Jernigan sisters struggle to cling to a fading notion of roots and family. The crackling dialogue hums with authenticity. The humor is fresh, often sidesplitting. The drama, heartfelt. The interplay of laughter and grief, pitch perfect. As Gio observes to Zambia, sometimes stories are all a woman has to leave behind. In Hall’s case, the stories are a valuable inheritance indeed.
The Blood Quilt runs April 24 through June 7, 2015 at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater.
*Unless otherwise noted, images by C. Stanley Photography.