Trust 'Queens' to Be Very Angry; Musical Hip and Upbeat, but Lyrics Show Pain over Husband's Deceit

Article excerpt

Byline: Jayne Blanchard, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

"Two Queens, One Castle" is an offhand title for a deeply affecting musical parable about trust within a marriage. Infidelity is a hot-button topic all its own, but "Two Queens" ups the ante by telling the autobiographical story of Jevetta Steele, who discovered that her husband, the father of her two sons, was on "the down low" - a term for a bisexual black man - and was HIV-positive.

This revelation would rock any woman's world, but Miss Steele is also a celebrated figure, a member of the gospel singing family the Steeles and an entertainer in her own right, the ethereal voice behind the song "I Am Calling You" from the movie "Baghdad Cafe."

With "Two Queens," her private anguish becomes a blazing public confession, a testament that with strong faith and a community of formidable women, you can deal with any outrageousness that comes your way.

You might think, "How could a woman expose herself this way? Wasn't she embarrassed and humiliated?" The musical deals forthrightly with these reactions. Yet Miss Steele has a reason for telling her story: AIDS is becoming one of the top three causes of death for black women between ages 35 and 44, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The idea of "the down low" has been popularized by J.L. King's book of the same title, and his appearance on "Oprah" and other talk shows - not to mention author Terry McMillan's recent troubles upon discovering her much-younger husband (the subject of her best-seller "How Stella Got Her Groove Back") is a homosexual.

Fluidly staged by Thomas W. Jones II, "Two Queens" examines one woman's journey from willful ignorance to painful knowledge after she uncovers her husband's years of deception.

William Hubbard and J.C. Steele (Miss Steele's brother) provide a tuneful mix of funk, blues, jazz, R&B and gospel to tell the story of the Wife (Felicia Curry), her Husband (TC Carson) and the Lover (Gary E. Vincent). Three dulcet-voiced singers (Tracy McMullan, Monique Paulwell, Roz White Gonsalves) play a variety of supporting roles, including the Wife's steel-spined mother, gossipy music industry insiders and understanding friends.

The music may be hip and smoothly upbeat - and well-performed by a trio of musicians partially obscured by a scrim - but Miss Steele's lyrics often crackle with an anger that cannot be vanquished by either faith or years of therapy. …