‘Lackawanna Blues’: How to Color Your Life with Love

It’s unlikely that I will ever make it to Lackawanna, New York. The beauty that Ruben Santiago-Hudson describes in “Lackawanna Blues”  may have disappeared with the woman who created it. Santiago-Hudson’s one-man show (with musical accompaniment provided by Chris Thomas King on guitar and some mean harmonic playing by Santiago-Hudson himself) is just the ticket to inspire reflection or praise. Although “Lackawanna Blues” is only at the Mark Taper Forum until 21 April 2019, it would be a lovely early Mother’s Day outing.

Lackawanna is just south of Buffalo (if you know where that is) and part of the Buffalo-Niagara Falls metropolitan area in Erie County, the western part of New York State. The name come from the Lackawanna Steel Company and the land was once part of the Buffalo Creek Reservation until the Seneca Native Americans sold the land in 1842. The town was once called Seneca and then later West Seneca. In the 1950s, the population was about 27, 658. In 2010, the population had decreased to 18, 141. In 2000, the population was about 84 percent white and 9.5 percent African American.

Santiago-Hudson was born on 24 November 1956 in Lackawanna to a Puerto Rican father and an African American mother. You might remember him as Captain Roy Montgomery for Seasons 1-3 of “Castle.” His acting hasn’t been limited to the small screen and he was on Broadway in the 1992 “Jelly’s Last Jam,” and had earlier received a Tony Award for his performance as part of the original Broadway cast of August Wilson’s “Seven Guitars.”

“Lackawanna Blues” debuted off-Broadway in 2001, long after the main character, Miss Rachel/Nanny, had died yet in this montage of memories with Santiago-Hudson playing all the roles, she lives on through the eyes and interactions with friends, boarders, family members, visitors and some rare opponents as she raises the boy that Santiago-Hudson was with an absentee mother and a long-hour-working father. She also takes in boarders who might otherwise end up homeless. She was like a benevolent government should work.

In the lobby, you’ll find black and white photos of her. Santiago-Hudson is now 62.  He’s seen his show become an HBO movie, with S. Epatha Merkerson playing “Nanny” and winning Best Actress Golden Globe, Screen Actor’s Guild and an Emmy.

Nanny was able to become the mother to many. “Lackawanna Blues” is a lovely way to remember mothers and inspire one to reach out to someone special or to be someone special.

“Lackawanna Blues” continues at the Mark Taper Forum until 21 April 2019.


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