THE MARRIAGE OF ANANSEWA by Efua Sutherland, directed by Bayo Akinfemi (AfriCan Theatre Ensemble). At the Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley). May 15-16 and 21-23 at 8 pm, matinee May 16 at 2 pm. $15-$25. 416-368-3110. See listing. Rating: NNN
In The Marriage Of Anansewa, Ghanaian playwright Efua Sutherland spins an original story about the mythic spider figure Ananse, who has a daughter, Anansewa, he desperately wants to wed to a rich husband.
A trickster type who manipulates those around him, Ananse entices a series of kings to court Anansewa and raise money for her school fees. Each thinks that Ananse is wooing only him as prospective son-in-law, and chaos erupts when they all respond with a proposal of marriage. Only further machinations by Ananse can save his family.
The production by AfriCan Theatre Ensemble delivers simple and classic storytelling, with Mimi Amatu's vibrant costumes and the live music under musical director John Alexander Campbell adding to the show's entertainment.
Lucky Ejim throws himself into the schemes of Ananse, his big smile and intentionally large, comic performance style grabbing the spotlight. There's a demure quality to Olunike Adeliyi's Anansewa, but plenty of tartness in the female chorus (Bridget Ogundipe, Andrea Scott, Chattrisse Dolabaille and Patience Mpumlwana), who play a number of roles and sing gloriously.
This is a show to see for its energy (everyone onstage is clearly having a good time) and a chance to discover an African playwright whose name you've probably never heard.
Director Bayo Akinfemi could have better shaped the production and the performances, but the comedy usually works, even though it's occasionally heavy-handed.