“Sowa’s Red Gravy” ends it production at the Castillo Theatre, located at 543 West 42nd Street in Manhattan this Sunday where a veritable witches’ brew was being cooked up.
The talented singer, composer and actress, Lonette McKee, played the lead role of Sowa in Diane Richards’ occasionally complicated but very comical play of ancient witches, whose understanding of nature, archaic African ritual and wise-women ways, led them to conjure for the Harlem locals, cooking up voodoo type love potions and youthful spells that made the 3 centenarians look less than half their age. “I cast a spell that made me look 52,” claimed the 110 year old Sowa, because it was just too much trouble to cast a spell to look younger.”
Narrating the audience through this tale of many twist and turns, while showing how temptation affects even those professing to be most holy, Sowa reveals she is in competition with fellow witches Luwanna (Kimberly “Q”) and Windy Willow (Toni Seawright) who stir up their own recipe of red gravy to capture the attention of Sapphire (Jonathan Peck) and turn him into their individual love slave. Thing is, the cocky Sapphire uses his manly tool and sexual charms to make the witches just as much his slaves as he is theirs. He couldn’t help the sexy spells he cast on women simply with his manly swagger and bedroom eyes, he was just born that way. Or so he claimed.
Baaad Luwanna with her spiky hair, is so proud of her sexual prowess she stays in her negligee and always looks like she is ready for bed. She has no intentions of giving the “good-lovin” Sapphire up. Thus, what results are witchy cat fights between the witches as they test their powers and try to out-spell one another. Unable to best Luwanna who keeps Sapphire at her beck and call, Sowa and Windy Willow join forces to get Sapphire for Sowa.
“Are you with me or a’gen me” asks Sowa of Windy Willow who claimed her magic was so powerful she turned herself 30, a month after her birth. So fast did Windy raise herself up from birth, that she couldn’t tell whether she was a man in a women’s body or just a lesbian that sometimes loved men. Although, she did not reveal to her fellow witches her attraction to Sapphire, whose manly ways even had the oft-times lesbian, feeling her feminine side; other men got on her nerves so badly, Windy Willow was not above whipping up a deadly herbal concoction to get rid of them. So powerful was Willow’s witchy-bitchy ways, she even enticed the Devil, Belozah (Kene Holliday), who was fascinated by Willow’s swiveling hips and evil countenance.
In fact, in one very amusing scene, Willow tries to get Belozah to devour one of her poison brews but it only set the devil’s bowels on fire making the devil even more enchanted with her, since it takes guts to try and kill the devil.
Kene Holliday has fun as the devil Belozah, kicking up a storm as the red devil, dressed from top to bottom in red hue, representing the fires of hell and the lust for life that the devil has for the wild side. Belozah enjoys women, wine and sin and a good cigar. He has so much fun corrupting people who enjoy being corrupted, he asks why sinners don’t celebrate his birthday like that do that goody two shoes the earth calls the son.
The entire cast is on point and makes this play very appetizing. It brings to the fore ancient wisdom, knowledge of nature and the power of those that know the secrets of the cosmic mysteries that has been explored through the centuries by diverse cultures and students of enchantment; whether it is voo doo, the earth magic of Wicca, witchcraft or the Jewish magic of Cabala. Actor Aaron Fried plays a double role as a paranoid white man looking for a protection spell to safeguard him against becoming a minority in the growing browning of America. He is delightful also as the Jewish neighborhood baker Bernstein, using magic charms and herbal magic remedies he kneads into the bread he bakes. Gary E. Vincent keeps the audience in stitches with his rendition of a pesky stuttering suitor that gets on Luwanna’s nerves and as the firy preacher, Reverend Walker, whose glib tongue and whoring ways keep the church ladies happy and their husbands running for their shotguns.
Drummer David D. Wright keeps the rhythms flowing as dancer, Iris Wilson, graces the stage with her sensuous dance numbers and witty banter as a church lady during the church scene.
All and all, Sowa’s Red Gravy gave the audience a devil of a time. Directed by Woodie King, Jr., Sowa’s Red Gravy casts a spell on its audience and made the play a tasty and palatable brew.