201 Mercer St, 269-1900.
Tues-Sun through July 13, $27-$42.
Lackawanna Blues is the semi-autobiographical tale of actor Ruben Santiago-Hudson's childhood in the care of Miss Rachel Crosby, a grandmotherly saint if ever one lived. Miss Crosby, a.k.a. Nanny, ran two boarding houses in Lackawanna, NY. There she gave the marginalized of the town--jailbirds, crazies, amputees, battered wives--understanding, hot cornbread, and a place to lay their crazy, battered, marginalized heads. (Nanny also extended her vast charity to animals: One house featured a three-legged horse and a morbidly obese raccoon that ate coffee and eggs for breakfast.) Nanny was "a rock for those in need"--warm, understanding, and fiercely protective, with balls enough to get down and kick some serious tail should the occasion demand it. Much like God (the REAL one), Nanny was entirely nonjudgmental, endlessly giving, and ultimately forgiving. This is Santiago-Hudson's gushing tribute to this kind and loving woman.
And no, it's not half as corny as it sounds.
Lackawanna Blues is a refreshingly honest and uplifting story, punc- tuated and accessorized by the plaintive wail of Bill Sims Jr.'s blues guitar. It's inspiring without pandering, and moving without resorting to emotional manipulation. Most of all, Lackawanna Blues is a story worth telling, very well told.
Ruben Santiago-Hudson is the kind of guy you invite to a party to keep the other guests entertained: he's got a good sense of humor and a keen knack for spinning yarns. He also gives terrific dramatic interpretations. Santiago-Hudson embodies 20-plus characters to tell Nanny's story, and each one is endearing, vivid, and colorful.
But this emotionally truthful and inspiring story is ultimately about one person--dear ol' Nanny--and when Santiago-Hudson is done telling it, you love her just about as much as he does.