Queens Girl in the World is a one-hundred-minute whirlwind solo show following the coming of age journey of Jacqueline Marie Butler, a twelve-year-old girl from Queens. Jacqueline (Jackie) is forced to deal with the turmoil brought on by puberty and racial injustice in the early 60s. Performed by Felicia Curry, with direction by Paige Hernandez and poetic language by Caleen Sinette Jennings, Queens Girl in the World is a firecracker of a show about a firecracker of a little girl. The expert acting by Curry, the poignant, heartfelt plot, and stunning projections create a memorable and powerful solo performance.
Curry's storytelling talents are enthralling. Throughout the play, Felicia Curry adeptly jumps between dozens of characters, each with their own distinct verbal and physical mannerisms. The way she is able to so quickly and clearly change characters indicates an actor with immense talent and experience. Every person Curry transforms into is distinctively different, yet they all feel grounded in reality. She is able to switch between moments of deep, vulnerable emotion and giggle-inducing comedy with ease. Curry truly is a chameleon who is able to slip into the shoes of a profoundly sympathetic twelve-year-old believably.
The plot of Queens Girl in the World is tear-jerking, powerful, and beautiful. Jackie's search for self as she navigates code-switching between her neighborhood and white private school strikes a timeless cord. The historical mentions of political upheaval feel eerily close to modern politics. While all these themes were impactful, the one I found most resonating was childhood sexual abuse. Jackie experiences childhood sexual abuse at the hands of her neighborhood friend's grandfather. This trauma shapes the way she experiences puberty and moves through the world going forward, and yet, it does not become the focus of the plot or Jackie's life. In fact, Jackie later meets a boy who asks her permission before giving her her first kiss, a marked difference from her other non-consensual experience with a much older man. Watching Jackie experience this adorable moment of consensual intimacy after seeing how the prior violation destroyed her brought me to tears.
The play opens with projections of rain onto the set. These projections help signal to the audience the time and location of where the story takes place. Also, in the moments of imaginative non-realism, the projections help bring the audience into the characters' minds. For example, in the first scene, Jackie marvels at the blue hydrangeas on her stoop. Suddenly, the set is covered in beautiful blue hydrangeas! Towards the end of the play, when the stoop turns into the deck of a boat, the projections help to sell this change in scenery. These projections helped make the show visually dazzling in a show with only one actor.
"Where will I find my place in the world?" This ending line from the show encapsulates the central theme of belonging and leaves the audience with a mysterious cliffhanger for the next two plays in this solo trilogy. The dialogue and characters in this play are poetic and relatable. This show is not only an example of excellent solo show making but of Black theatre excellence.
"Queens Girl in the World"
Performed by Felicia Curry
Directed by Paige Hernandez
April 10th – May 8th, 2022
Abingdon Theatre Company
Theatre Row 410 W 42nd Street, New York City
CARMEN BURBRIDGE is a Brooklyn-based actor and writer, originally from Jacksonville Beach, Florida. They have worked with New Dramatists, Portland Playhouse and The Farm Theater. It is her mission to create a convergence of hearts and minds in an effort to expose underrepresented stories and make the world a better place. They are passionate about trauma informed work, laughter, play and community.