And after the darkish instances of the previous yr and a half, we’re overdue for some laughter. Santiago-Hudson, a cruel charmer, gamely provides many humorous moments: whether or not he’s recounting a prime-time-worthy brawl between Numb Finger Pete and Mr. Lemuel Taylor or talking within the mangled vocabulary of Ol’ Po’ Carl, who praises the sights of New York, together with “da Statue Supply” and “the Whole State Constructing.”
Although even in these moments when he emulates these Lackawanna of us — lots of whom, he notes, are poor and uneducated — he doesn’t achieve this cruelly; he treats them with tenderness and empathy, even the brutal ones who did unsuitable.
There are additionally cases of sorrow, which Santiago-Hudson fails to assault as nimbly. He pushes too exhausting on the emotional notes, like a scene by which a lady involves Nanny’s in the midst of the night time together with her children and bloody wounds. And by the top, he awkwardly circles round an ending that should inevitably deal with expensive Nanny’s loss of life.
It all the time comes again to Nanny, together with her stiff again and neatly folded arms; Santiago-Hudson’s rendering evokes a Cicely Tyson kind, a powerful Black matriarch to not be trifled with. His narrative efficiency is spectacular for a lot of causes, however probably the most nuanced is the way in which Santiago-Hudson sees all of it, as a baby eavesdropping and peeking by means of doorways, with curious and affectionate eyes.
He grounds us within the particulars, which brings not simply these characters, but additionally an entire city to life: the way in which a lady pops her hips, the way in which a person coughs, even the actual tint of the Lackawanna snow. In spite of everything, folks might imagine the blues are about heartbreak, however to get to heartbreak, you first should cross by means of love.
By Oct. 31 at Manhattan Theater Membership; 212-239-6200, manhattantheatreclub.com. Operating time: 1 hour half-hour.