Review: Blue Door and Black Pearl Sings! at Celebration Arts

Blue Door: 8 p.m. Thu-Fri and July 5, 6, 7, 14, 21, 26 and 27; 2 p.m. July 8, 15, 22, 28. Through July 28; $15-$20; Celebration Arts, 2727 B Street; (916) 455-2787;
Black Pearl Sings: 8 p.m. Sat, and July 12, 13, 19, 20 and 28; 2 p.m. July 1, 21 and 29; Through July 29; $15-$20; Celebration Arts, 2727 B Street; (916) 455-2787;
Rated 5.0

Escaping or making peace with the past is at the heart of two outstanding plays now in repertory at Celebration Arts.

Blue Door is about an accomplished African-American mathematician who has basically denied his blackness to attain academic success, and Black Pearl Sings! is about an African-American convict whose treasury of old songs may gain her freedom.

Both are excellent, with hugely talented two-person casts: Tory Scroggins and Tarig Elsiddig in Door and Carla Fleming and Lynn Baker in Pearl.

In Blue Door, Lewis (Scroggins) spends an epic night of insomnia, visited by four generations of ancestors (all portrayed by Elsidding) who remind him of the painful path that others trod for his benefit.

Black Pearl Sings! was inspired by John Lomax’s discovery of blues-folk legend Huddie Ledbetter (a.k.a. Lead Belly) while collecting and preserving old songs before they disappeared. Here, musicologist Susanna Mullally (Baker), discovers Alberta “Pearl” Johnson (Fleming) working on a chain gang in a Texas prison.