Jalen Rose | Correspondent
The innovative play by Suzan-Lori Parks, “In The Blood,” was recently performed by participants of NC State’s University Theater. The play itself was written in 1999 as a modern adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” and encompasses the implications of poverty, accurately capturing the experiences of the oppressed. The social stigmas that attach themselves to people in poverty and adulterers have existed for many years.
The story is centered around the main character, Hester (played by Riki Dows), and her five children (played by Ryan Vasconcellos, Isaiah Lewis, Dani Coan, Elnora Nesbitt and Fara Marin). The family lives under a bridge where the majority of the play takes place.
The opening scene displays the word “slut” spray-painted on the outside wall of the bridge. Hester is unable to read the word due to her illiteracy. Hester’s oldest son, Jabber, is the only one in the family who can read and write. He immediately knows what the word says but refuses to tell his mother.
The concept of illiteracy is prevalent throughout the entirety of the play. The only thing Hester is capable of writing is the letter “A.” This is a reference to the original plot of “The Scarlet Letter” where the main character, Hester, has sewn an “A” onto all of her clothing.
From the beginning of the play, it’s apparent that Hester’s children are very important to her. At one point she tells her friend that she has nothing, but if she loses them, she’ll have less than nothing. Hester owns very little. She has been subjected to the harshest realities of poverty with little hope of escaping the oppressive system.
But despite her situation, she still holds an optimistic view for her future. Well, at least in the beginning. In the first scene, she proclaims, “the world’ll take care of the women and children.” By the end of the first act, she states, “I don’t think the world likes women much.” Her optimistic outlook is eventually overshadowed by reality.
Aside from poverty, the play also touches on the stigma of hyper-sexuality in black women. Society has often sexualized the black woman with little regard of the implications this may cause. The play does a good job of comparing the sexual experiences Hester goes through with the same ones other adults partake in.
Throughout the play, each adult character gives a monologue explaining their sexual encounter with Hester. The unique thing about each monologue is that they all justify their actions in different ways while simultaneously condemning Hester.
Each justification hints at various “societal principles” that can be observed in the modern day. They included: unable to resist temptations, being young, being married, being white, and being religious. Each one of these reasonings didn’t apply to Hester and since she had no excuse, she was deemed promiscuous.
The play presented a very necessary message for the audience. The NC State students provided an authentic and captivating performance. The audience was able to leave the theater informed and entertained. The production of “In The Blood” was an overall success.