In a broiling Texas summertime smack in the middle of the Great Depression, Susannah Mullally, a song collector from the Library of Congress, is just about to give up her day’s search when she hears a rich, expressive voice coming from somewhere down a prison hallway. She has been patient, meticulously combing state institutions like this one, seeking songs she’s never heard before — and there aren’t many to find. She wants old songs that have never been written down, instead passed from one generation to another simply by being sung again and again as a family worked, cooked, celebrated, remembered or traveled.
In Frank Higgins’ play Black Pearl Sings! at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, song collector Susannah (Annie Fitzpatrick) forms an unlikely, very valuable partnership with Alberta ‘Pearl’ Johnson (Torie Wiggins), whose honeyed voice was gliding down the prison corridor that hot afternoon.
Staged by ETC’s producing artistic director, D
Through March 31 at the Ensemble Theatre. Tickets are $38-$42. ensemblecincinnati.org.