Most of the works in this collection of plays, stories, and monologues from Mary E. Weems are intended to be performed rather than read, yet they are still powerful and appealing even in solitude. The author’s language is rich, especially when she writes in the voice of women longing of love. An abused wife despairs that her husband “likes my tears with his breakfast;” another woman laments how love sours “like white milk left out too long;” another observes that she and her husband are mismatched “like a well-made and a raggedy shoe.” Perhaps the most poignant passage comes in the play “Purses:”
Sometimes I think we learn how to love backwards. We learn as babies to love our mamas, our daddies, our grandparents, our sisters and brothers, our auties and uncles — everybody close in our lives but —
Most of the works center on the experience of African-American women, a group that is perpetually underrepresented in literature. However, one play, “Closure,” describes the urban housing crisis of the late 2000s from the perspective of the furniture and appliances abandoned from a foreclosure. A basement light bulb recalls the lives he had once witnessed:
Hope dank as the smell in this basement
that used to hold me, a freezer, and a washer
and dryer for the Ramirez family, their 2 dogs
and three cats. This house once as full of love
as a Valentine’s Day card, emptied like a movie theater
after someone yells fire.
The final play in the collection, “Meat,” is about the 11 Cleveland women murdered by Anthony Sowell between 2007 and 2009. The playwright’s intent is to honor the victims, yet perhaps unfortunately the killer, named Tone in the play, steals the show. As depicted in this play, Tone’s mind is depraved, horrifying, and utterly unforgettable.
The voices of the women, however, rise above Tone’s insanity, and this accomplishment makes “Blackeyed” a compelling anthology.