Review: A Song for Coretta at Celebration Arts

Showtimes: Thu 8pm, Fri 8pm, Sat 8pm, Sun 2pm. Through 5/26; $10-$20; Celebration Arts, 2727 B Street; (916) 455-2787;
Rated 4.0

Playwright Pearl Cleage was moved to see a long line of people, waiting in the rain, to pay respects to Coretta Scott King before her burial. So moved, in fact, that she wrote a play to capture that scene from 2006.

In A Song for Coretta, now playing at Celebration Arts, Cleage imagines the stories and reasons that five women—all of different ages and backgrounds—felt compelled to stand for hours in front of Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church to honor the widow of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Cleage uses a clever device to move things forward: A young student reporter approaches women to record their stories and why they came. The interviews run the gamut; a woman who witnessed the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycotts; a pregnant teen facing life hurdles; a New Orleans artist displaced by Hurricane Katrina; and a U.S. Army veteran back from Afghanistan.

For around 80 minutes, the one-act engages the audiences with the characters and their interactions, interweaving generations, beliefs and back-stories. At times, the plot feels contrived, but the messages, characters and a talented Celebration Arts' cast are strong enough to carry the story along.