Back in November 1996, Drama Desk and Obie Award-winning actress Ruby Dee came to downtown Seattle's A Contemporary Theatre (ACT) with a solo adaptation of her 1987 published anthology, "My One Good Nerve." The show, a mix of anecdotes, poetry and short stories, has since become a frequent vehicle for the actress, eventually playing NYC's Sylvia & Danny Kaye Playhouse in 1998 under the expanded title: "My One Good Nerve: A Visit With Ruby Dee."
Now Dee gets her Nerve back up, this time for two weeks at Harlem's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Jan. 31-Feb. 13 (the Jan. 31 opening night gala is already sold out). As he did two years ago, Charles Nelson Reilly, who staged Broadway's The Gin Game with Charles Durning and Julie Harris, directs Nerve.
Dee's segments include a woman reflecting on the death of her mother, and a whimsical "Ruby Goose" sequence, wherein Dee inverts nursery rhymes to give them a relevant comic edge. When Dee did the original show in Seattle, ACT spokesperson Noreen O'Brien noted, "As she got older, Ruby Dee used to feel uncomfortable about being pegged as an elder spokesman. But now she wants to convey her experiences and insights. She also wants to show off her humor, which a lot of people who consider her a `serious actress' don't expect."
Dee was the original Ruth in A Raisin in the Sun, Lutiebelle in husband Ossie Davis' Purlie Victorious, Lena in Fugard's Boesman And Lena, and Mary Tyrone in an Ace Award-winning television production of Long Day's Journey Into Night. Augmenting her numerous film and televison credits, Dee has also written children's books, one of which received the 1989 Literary Guild Award.
On stage, Dee wrote and performed Zora Is My Name and the musical, Take It From The Top, as well as the revue Two Hah Hahs And A Homeboy, which starred her hubby and their son, Guy. Dee's husband, Ossie Davis, serves as executive producer of the show, which, though produced by Woodie King Jr., is presented by the familial "Sidney, Harry and Ossie Productions."
For tickets ($25-$35) and information on My One Good Nerve at the Schomberg Center, 515 Malcolm X Boulevard, call (212) 491-2206.
-- By David Lefkowitz