As the theme song of “Blood, Sweat and Heels” inquires – New York, what up? Answer: Melyssa is in rehearsal, struggling to follow simple stage direction or cope with overhead lighting, although the opening of the “musical comedy based loosely on [her] life” is just a few days away. She’s optimistic though – “High pressure situations create diamonds.” “Be not afraid,” she soliloquizes, “For although this is a tale about a video vixen.” “More Judi Dench! Convince me!” Her director shouts! Really, Judi Dench? I must have heard wrong. She fumbles a few more lines and has a mini meltdown, but gets a great pep talk from the directors.
Meanwhile, Mica is kicking it with ex-boyfriend Terry and pet chinchilla, Barack, both of whom are “bad boys.” “Barack, if I had known you would behave like this, I would never have let you out of the White House!” Mica warbles at the quivering fur ball as he tries to hide under the nearest armchair. Daisy stops by for a visit and is surprised to run into Terry there – “What’s he doing here? Maybe a service visit?!” she wonders. Daisy has bigger fish to fry – and asks Mica to accompany her to chemo. Mica pledges her support; schedule allowing. She has a few pop-up runway shows to spring onto the general population.
We join Geneva as she unpacks the last of her belongings into her tiny NYC-sized studio – all the while complaining about how hard it is to be single. Even the movers tried to steal her furniture, she claims. “They weren’t trying to flirt, they were trying to scam me.” How could they possibly resist her ample charms? Demetria drops by to talk work – specifically writer’s block. She only has a few days to finish her epic tome about how to meet men. Heck! If Tolstoy could compose War and Peace in four years, I’m sure Demetria can squeeze out the rest of her dating guide in a timely manner.
Next, we see Daisy during her second to last session of chemo. Before her breathing coach stops by, she has a reassuring chat with her mom, whom she is shielding from the worst of her symptoms. Daisy is putting on a very brave face and showing a lot of resilience despite her circumstances.
In a radio studio on another side of town, Melyssa is plugging her play on the airwaves. The shockjocks ask if she misses being a video vixen, but she claims not to, and wants to put it all behind her. She also tells a charming little anecdote about receiving a dildo and a box of magnums in the mail. We hear the title of the play for the first time, “For Vixens Who Have Considered Homicide When The Video Became Too Much.” That’s a bit cheeky considering it is borderline copyright infringement! For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf is Ntozake Shange’s first work and most acclaimed theater piece.
Back at the hospital, Mica, true to her word, comes to cheer Daisy up. She’s sporting her own version of candy striper uniform, including giant lollipops and other fun party favors. She sends the breath coach into fits of giggles after joking about popping Altoids. Once they begin the prayer and meditation, a few very real moments are shared and tears are shed. To lighten the mood, they follow-up by laughing at the title of Melyssa’s play and the nasty attitudes of some of the cast mates they’ll have to see at the theatrical premiere.
At the airport, Melyssa picks up her mom and aunt. They are in the town for the play, which she has been working on for five years – but they only just heard about it a week ago. “All I do is cry and starve!” she complains. Turns out the stress of preparing for the play does a body good. She is rocking the mid-drift look a lot this week.
In a quaint little coffee shop, Demetria is availing of the free wi-fi and attempting to finish the last few chapters of her self-published book. She is overwhelmed – what with the deadline in eight weeks and the wedding in just one month. Sounds like she might be typing away on her honeymoon.
The day of the play has finally arrived and Melyssa is late – and emotional about sharing her story with the world. Mica and Demetria arrive at the play just in time to revel in stiff silence and generate tension. They have a stand-off for several minutes, waiting for each other to speak. Demetria finally buckles and flees by way of the lobby door – so I guess she lost?Geneva shows up to bolster Demetria, and awkwardly introduce her British friend, Chantelle, to the rest of the ladies. During the break, we get a glimpse of just how sweltering the off-off Broadway theatre is. So hot, Daisy thinks it might be God himself telling her to shape up her act or get shipped down to the lake of fire.
The play opens Mel’s monologue about her video vixen past (you know the past she claims she wants everyone to forget). If Daisy is worried about divine signs, Melyssa must be trembling in her stiletto Timberland boots, since the motherboard has blown a fuse and the feedback on the speakers is reminiscent of demonic hooves scratching chalkboards. Geneva describes the cacophony as “sound challenges.” During her next solo scene, Melyssa saunters across the stage and removes her blazer. Her aunt seems alarmed. “Sh*t! She’s not going to take it off? Is she??”
Mostly clothed,Melyssa sultrily gyrates to a chorus and just as the show’s technical difficulties seem to be over, the stage lights go out. Despite throwing a tantrum backstage, she pulls herself together. “People didn’t come and pay money to watch me throw up my hands in the air and say, f**k it.” The next scene involves her getting bent over in a doggie style position, humped and spanked. There is just enough light in the theater to see the cringe on her mom’s face. Daisy is confused by the takeaway message. “It’s either, be a video vixen and drink champagne and hang out on yachts and then sing victim, or ‘stay in school and just say no to drugs and don’t wear tight leggings.’” “In spite of all of the issues, it is my most naked moment,” Melyssa muses without a hint of irony.
At the after party, everyone seems excited about the air conditioning and Melyssa seems relieved to be done with the performance. Chantelle, the new girl, grills Mica about her relationship with Terry, her ex. The gals bond over being newly single and plan to go out and meet some guys. Daisy would prefer to meet men at church, even though, she complains, “they’re all gay at my church!”
Geneva scowls from a few feet away. Melyssa’s mom tells her she understood and approved of her play, which sends her into sobs of joy. Happiness is generally followed by drama on this show, so enjoy the moment. Melyssa’s friend Arzo, meets Daisy and Demetria and explains her ethnic origin. She’s of Afghani descent, “Oh, so you’re Arab?” Is Geneva’s utterly uniformed reply. EHHHH! “No, I’m Afghani,” Arzo repeats. “It’s okay, my boyfriend’s black,” she inexplicably follows up. Geneva gives her a bit of side eye on that one. Demetria and Arzo bond over having younger men. Perhaps Geneva’s man just hasn’t been born yet.
The night has been drama free so far – and Geneva and Demetria are on the way out the door so we should be in the clear? EHHHH! of course Demetria and Geneva give Daisy some grief for not greeting them with enough enthusiasm. “It’s okay to speak to me when you see me,” Demetria passive aggressively shades. “It’s about to go down,” she mumbles to Geneva as they breezily stampede out of the party. “These women are like crabs in a barrel,” newcomer Chantelle says sagely, “Instead of pulling each other down, they should be lifting each other up.” Good luck with that!
Next week seems full of drama, resolution, forgiveness and troubling, a bit of bad news for Daisy.