As if penning a Restoration comedy, Toni Morrison gives Pecola (Alana Arenas), the heroine of her 1970 novel The Bluest Eye, the surname Breedlove. For this black, just-pubescent child living in 1940s Ohio, this name, however, contains very little humor, only painful irony. Pecola knows no love from her sexually abusive alcoholic father (Victor J. Cole) or her embittered, warlike mother (Chavez Ravine). Pecola’s experiences in the white world have been even more harsh. She has come to believe love is a reward for being beautiful, and this means having blue eyes. If she can’t have them, she wishes she were dead.
Lydia Diamond’s graceful adaptation of Morrison’s book brings Pecola’s world to life with narration from Claudia (Libya V. Pugh) and Frieda (Monifa M. Days), the daughters of a family with whom Pecola lives after her mother has burned down their home. With this family in which Mama (TaRon Patton) and Daddy (James Vincent Meredith) provide love as “thick and dark as Alaga syrup,” Pecola finds some relief. But as Morrison repeatedly, and almost unbearably, demonstrates, this family’s caring cannot combat the self-loathing engendered by society’s bigotry. While Hallie Gordon’s solid direction doesn’t always surmount the leisurely meanderings of the novel or its adaptation, The Bluest Eye easily breeds shudders, and perhaps even a tear.