Have you ever wished a version of “Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret,” existed with a black and lesbian narrative and more erotica? J. Scales might have just what you’re looking for.
In her performance, mostly the VOICE: a black lesbian journey, J. Scales told the story of her life. She peppered in prayers to God, musical performances and poetry that addressed feelings about faith, relationships and growing up.
The show progressed in a similar fashion to a coming-of-age story, not only in terms of its chronological narrative, but also in terms of its performance style.
Segues were rocky at first. Props seemed forced. J. Scales’ use of stream-of-consciousness lost its authenticity when she read everything, even expressions like “oh yeah, where was I” straight from the script sitting on her music stand. The performer seemed a little uncomfortable in her role, making more eye contact with her musical instruments than the audience.
Slowly, however, she grew more confident. As she received positive feedback from the audience, she threw in some clever ad-libs that made us crack up.
Interestingly enough, what caught my eye the most during the performance was the American Sign Language interpreter. With each song and poem, the interpreter infused the cadence of J. Scales’ voice and into her signing.
mostly the VOICE: a black lesbian journey
by j. scales
Directed by Regie Cabico
Details and tickets
She had such emotive facial expressions that even if you could neither understand J. Scales or understand sign language; you would still understand the emotional undercurrent of the performance. Her interpretation of the performance was so beautiful and moving that it made me want to learn sign language.
Scales herself certainly has a talent for music. While her transitions in narrative were awkward, her transitions between instruments, or between rap and soulful singing, were flawless.
In terms of content, this production was not for the light-hearted. As someone who can watch Amy Schumer stand-up without flinching, I was surprised at how uncomfortable I felt by the explicit erotica in the show.
The program itself was a little misleading. J. Scales may have dubbed herself a “healerartist,” but her harsh words toward other women hardly felt empowering.
Indeed, some of her poems were both profound and funny, such as “letter to God #2 (while thinking about my hair.)” Others fell into the trap of using clichés and predictable rhymes. Too many times, you could guess what words were coming next.
Though this is J. Scale’s first theatrical performance, which explains why it felt a little like a rough draft, at the same time, we are talking about a woman who has performed everywhere from the House of Blues to the Kennedy Center.
When the director made motions for her to wrap it up, she sang to him “do I have time for one more verse?” proving that she was finally enjoying her time on stage.