Anondra “Kat” Williams’ 2011 book “Black Girl Love” is a collection of stories and poems celebrating love between black women in various forms. Austin scholar and playwright Al(aina) L. Monts’ adaptation of that book into a stage play is no different, as revealed in its new mounting by the Generic Ensemble Company and the Vortex (running through June 22).
When “Black Girl Love” begins, it does so with several scenes featuring an almost academic exploration of black queer love, but that opening is somewhat misleading. As the play progresses, it peels away those layers, probing deeper into the emotional and sensual truths lying underneath the intellectual. As Monts notes in their playwright’s note in the program, “It doesn’t feel academic enough, it’s art.” Indeed, “Black Girl Love” is ultimately a work of artistry, rather than scholarship, and that transformation is a part of the play’s larger arc.
Unfortunately, “Black Girl Love” lacks much of an arc on a narrative level. Though characters seem to share names from scene to scene, the play feels more like a series of thematically connected vignettes rather than a larger story. As is often the case with such a structure, those vignettes can be somewhat hit or miss, with some stronger than others, leading to a feeling that the play drags at certain points.
When it is consistently a hit is whenever Allegra Jade Fox is on stage. Though the entire cast — consisting of Fox, Faith Anderson, Oktavea L. Williams and G’beda — is talented, Fox appears effortlessly natural, whether her scenes are charged with emotion, enlightenment or eroticism.
“Black Girl Love” excels, then, on a resonant and emotional level, combining love, lust, longing, eroticism and a celebration of black female/nonbinary queerness in its many forms, from the supportive to the obsessive. Directors Kt Shorb and Simone Raquel Alexander show real sensitivity with the material, bringing that tonal structure to the piece.
Though it may not be a satisfying narrative, “Black Girl Love” is an exercise in seeing and being seen, telling a very satisfying metatextual story about recognizing the messy truths of black queer love, a truly inclusive and sensitive portrait that is perfectly suited to Pride Month.