We begin with a celebration at the headquarters of Maynard Jackson (who is never seen in the play). Campaign workers Lena (an out-of-towner staying at the office, played by #TCTheater artist Vinecia Coleman), John (La'Tevin Alexander), and J.P. (longtime Penumbra company member Lester Purry) are drinking champagne with J.P.'s new young wife Ann (Portland native Lauren Steele, as far as I can tell no relation to Minnesota's Steele family). The drama begins when J.P. confesses to John that he and Ann are not actually married, a fact that could threaten his nomination to City Attorney, and which is also of interest to John, who is having an affair with Ann. More drama comes to town in the form of J.P.'s ex Eve (Cycerli Ash), who owns the house being used as headquarters. She's the one who was recently in Paris, after the divorce, and what she learned was to love herself and be the person she wanted to be. But does she still love J.P.? Does Ann love John enough to leave J.P., a potentially great man she feels obliged to support? Will J.P. fire John when he finds out about the affair? Where will Lena go now that the campaign is over? All of these choices are explored over the course of several days, as plans are made and changed and redirected.
Lou Bellamy directs the smart, funny, and yes, insightful script with lightness and humor, but also bringing out the depth in the conversations about race, gender, and the future. The five-person cast is an absolute delight, particularly Lauren Steele with Ann's thick Southern accent and tendency to burst into nervous tears, and Cycerli Ash floating gracefully across the stage as Evie, radiating joy and confidence (I'll have what she's having). She wears a number of flowy dresses and tunics, in contrast to Ann's conservative skirt/jacket combos and Lena's no-nonsense pants. John gets to show a little '70s flair, while future City Attorney J.P is in formal suits (costume design by Dana Rebecca Woods). The stylish '70s home turned campaign office is well represented in Vicki Smith's two-story set, complete with kitchen, couch, and table of full of phones and other campaign equipment.
I'm not sure I've seen a Pearl Cleage play before this year, and I like what I've seen. Both Paris and Blues have well-drawn, interesting, relatable characters, lovely relationships between friends, and a way of exploring life in the Black community in the 20th Century that is filled with joy and love despite the hardships.