My best friend has been reviewed by The New York Times!
... The problem is that we see all of them through the distancing filter of narration. And even though the narrator is the endearingly astute and precocious Claudia, we never shake the knowledge that it’s the analytical, literary, unmistakable voice of Toni Morrison telling us the story. Bobbi Baker is just terrific as Claudia, easily conveying both her adult perspective on the events of her girlhood and the child’s more limited understanding of them. But even as a child, Claudia is bright enough to resent Shirley Temple’s blue eyes rather than envy them ...
... If Pecola is the central character, she is not the voice of the play. That role belongs to Claudia (Bobbi Baker) and, to a lesser extent, her sister Frieda (Ronica Reddick). The girls are neighbors of Pecola's family, the Breedloves, and both function almost as narrators. It is the sisters who explain at the start of the play that Pecola "had her father's baby" and then invite an exploration of "the ugly, untidy 'how' of it." Feisty, funny and confident, Claudia and Frieda also serve as counterpoint to the fragile, somber and self-negating Pecola, whose name resembles that of the mulatto child, Peola, in the 1934 film "Imitation of Life."
Ting's cast performs beautifully. Baker is especially fine, demonstrating the intelligence and spirit of a black girl whose response to getting a white baby doll for Christmas is to pull off its legs and head. She and Reddick convincingly play sisters, messing with each other or bonding tightly when, in one scene, they are set upon by a new classmate, the pretty new white student called Maureen Pearl (Shelley Thomas). Oduye brings a sweetness and fragility to Pecola, the young girl who is unaware of the roots of her yearnings and whose life is an expression of society's injustices. Miche Braden is the archetypal Mama, a loving, firm, put-upon woman who keeps her children in line and mouths off when necessary. Leon Addison Brown manifests the virility, confusion and loneliness that lead him to "claim his manhood in a manner unthinkable, unspeakable ..."