Monday, July 4, 2011

"You Cut Up The Clothes in The Closet of My Dreams"

Joshie Jo Armstead sings "You Cut Up the Clothes in the Closet of My Dreams" from the stage play Don't Play Us Cheap filmed by the great Melvin Van Peebles. His stage direction had earned the play a Tony nomination.

I first saw this performance in May, 2004 the night Adriana La Cerva was killed off The Sopranos. Still in shock from the brutal surprise of her death, too stunned and wound up to go to bed, I kept flipping through the channels after the credits until I found this strange film.

A crazy devil and Esther Rolle(!) were running around, the sound quality left something to be desired, but once Joshie Jo started wailing to the hummed accompaniment of the other party guests, I was caught on the piercing hook of her groove.

You cut up the clothes in the closet of my dreams
You pulled off the sleeves and ripped out the seams
Got me a needle, got me a thread,
Got me a thimble and I'm moving straight ahead

If the extended metaphor is entirely silly, if the performance has more enthusiasm than precision, if the yellow hat distracts, none of these could diffuse the perfect power of Joshie's song at that first moment to express exactly what I was feeling about poor doomed Ade.

We knew Adriana was dead the minute the feds had her in their interrogation room. She had been a dead woman walking for weeks. But we still held out hope, like she did, dreaming of escape on the open road, even as Silvio takes her on the final drive to the endless woods. Damn you, Silvio, you cold blooded killer. Damn you, Christopher, killer of innocents. And damn you to hell, Tony, for making it all happen.


So why am I bringing up this retro topic from way back when before my Nora or this blog were even born? Beats me. I'd offer the pop culture suggestiveness of Mob Wives or news bits about Matthew Weiner's Mad Men new season, but in truth, neither sent me to the Youtube.

Perhaps it was a certain poignant line (No remedy for time, only consolations or ...One might have said that she had learned to use the diminished nature of her voice to maximum effect, that is was a lesson in how to live with damage, how to make peace with it and use it for what it can do...) out of the legion in the sad old book I'm rereading this month. I don't know. All I know is I love the sound of a woman's voice redeeming her pain through the beauty of her song.

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