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He Drives Me Crazy

Jevetta Steele must be a masochist. For the past two weekends, she has repeatedly enacted one of the most painful and personal parts of her life to an audience of hundreds.

In a voice that’s stronger than a bottle of paradise on an island of wine, she belts out the true story of life with her gay husband in Mixed Blood’s musical “Two Queens, One Castle.”

From the depths of her diaphragm, Steele (an Academy Award nominee for “Calling You” from the 1988 film “Baghdad Café”) surfaces the deep conflict of a woman who allows herself to believe what she is told in order to feel loved. She portrays her lovesick, inexperienced younger self with believability, demonstrating how she could fall blindly in love with a gay man. With accompaniment by keyboardist Sanford Moore, Steele and company belt out Steele’s gospel and R&B songs, which narrate her life as a successful young singer who recorded with Prince, Natalie Merchant and Fine Young Cannibals.

While years of reflection have put a tangled relationship of deceit and naivete into perspective for Steele, her emotions emerge fresh during the performance, as if she is facing up to the lies all over again.

A simplistic set of two-way mirrors, circular platforms and white gauze are woven unobtrusively into Steele’s story. During scenes in which Steele recounts her first impressions of her husband, his gay identity (flamboyantly played by Dennis Spears) can be seen through a two-way mirror her husband’s character (played by James Rich) tries to dismiss.

The white gauze is used both as a wedding veil and a veil over the consecration bed on the wedding night. In a comic twist, Steele and Rich stage a poetic love-making scene, only for Steele to burst from behind the white gauze to complain of the pain and disillusionment that came with losing her virginity.

The six-member cast is deftly used: Sometimes Steele’s three background singers function as catty friends or criticizing strangers, and sometimes they act as her inner voices. The line amidst the three roles is never clear, but that’s what makes the production a unique statement about living with someone who lies: Sometimes you can’t tell when you’re responding to your intuition or to your neighbor’s advice when you’re searching for the truth.

This show isn’t just about coming to terms with a gay identity; it’s about the lies and abuse that can shape your life when you’re afraid to face the truth. Soulful and aurally rich, “Two Queens, One Castle” shows Steele’s growth from a wide-eyed young woman who can’t lead her own life to a woman who can only take charge of it.

“Two Queens, One Castle” plays through Nov. 24 at Mixed Blood Theatre, (612) 338-6131.

Monica LaBelle welcomes comments at
[email protected]

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