‘The Bluest Eye’ humanizes preferential treatment in gripping tale

Ellie Findell, Production Manager

“This soil is not kind to certain kinds of seeds.” The Bluest Eye, directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz and adapted from Toni Morrison’s first novel, is a heart wrenching story of three African American girls finding their way in rural Ohio during the 1940s.

Whether through shining a physical light on abuse, or using the symbolism of a doll, this story of systematic oppression reinforces the idea that the pigment of a child’s skin has a permanent influence on every aspect of their life. The use of multi racial characters compared against African Americans helps to illustrate that it’s not just a ‘black’ versus ‘white’ problem but a visual spectrum of skin color where each shade darker translates as more and more irrelevant in society’s eyes.

This soil is not kind to certain kinds of seeds

— The Bluest Eye

The Guthrie has been moving in the right direction in the past few years of diversifying productions and roles and not just pulling from its traditional white actor majority in the Twin Cities. Whether it’s Edmund in King Lear, or the six actors in the South West Africa genocide story We Are Proud to Present, the Guthrie has truly expanded its range. However The Bluest Eye takes it to the next level by adding a multidimensional piece that hits home and truly questions the primarily white audience about their own role and whether the white moderate mindset is really as advanced as it’s thought to be.

Morrison’s story focuses in on a young girl, Pecola Breedlove (Brittany Bellizeare), from a troublesome or “ugly” family as she calls it and her two foster sisters Claudia (Carla Duren) and Frieda MacTeer (Deonna Bouye). Pecola wishes for nothing more than to have blue eyes like Shirley Temple, the famous blue eyed blond haired actress, which she believes will automatically draw more people to love her like the MacTeers love their daughters.

it’s not just a ‘black’ versus ‘white’ problem but a visual spectrum of skin color where each shade darker translates as more and more irrelevant in society’s eyes

It is pressed into the Breedlove family that they are not good enough, that their “ugly” seeds are too many shades dark for Lorain, Ohio. Ms. Breedlove has lame foot, Mr. Breedlove drinks too much and Pecola just can’t reconcile why her type of seed is seen as less preferred despite the comfort of her friends.

The actors make this performance, supported by the stark lighting and haunting music that amplify the gravity of Pecola’s situation and that the lives and struggles of those systematically oppressed need to be shown a spotlight on. The play is, without a doubt, a solemn narrative involving child abuse, insest, and white supremacy. Claudia, the witty younger MacTeer daughter, brings laughter to the stage through the physical dismembering of a white female doll and its seemingly perfect qualities because it doesn’t resemble her.

The Bluest Eye humanizes an intense and gripping story and brings it to a stage where stories like this don’t have nearly as much of a presence. By telling the full story of Pecola, Lileana Blain-Cruz allows the mainly white audience to see Pecola as a seed that didn’t get society’s preferential treatment as it grew and not just that of a pregnant young African American woman.

The Guthrie Theater will be showing The Bluest Eye until May 21st 2017 with post show discussions on select dates. Tickets can be found here .

This review was part of a competition at the Star Tribune for young journalists. Chief Visual Editor Kelby Wittenberg also wrote a review of the play for the competition.