Guy Davis at The Crossroads Theater
One of the real gems of the New Jersey theater scene is the Crossroads Theater located in New Brunswick. The Crossroads Theatre Company is dedicated to creating and producing professional theater that celebrates the culture, history, spirit and voices of the African-American experience.
The company presents honest and positive portrayals of people of color from around the world, as well as providing a nurturing working environment for writers and artistic collaborators through supporting the commissioning, development, presentation and documentation of new scripts.
Over the years, Crossroads has been the home of 40 world premieres including “The Colored Museum” by George C. Wolfe, “Jitney” by August Wilson, and “Two Hahs Hahs and A Homeboy” by Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis.
A 2001 Morning Edition report about Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis spoke eloquently of their career, their activism, and their personal life: “Their Hollywood romance has flowered for more than half a century. Their joint partnership in justice has spanned and deeply influenced the civil rights movement. Individually, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee are groundbreaking entertainers and social activists. Together, they’re a team with few rivals on the American scene — and they’ve been honored with the Screen Actors Guild’s Life Achievement Award.”
Proving that the Dee/Davis apple does not fall very far from the tree, Guy Davis is performing at the Crossroads Theater in his own one-man show production entitled, “The Adventures of Fishy Waters In Bed With The Blues.” The show can be summed up in a quote that appears in the first minutes of the show, when Waters tells his audience that, “There is no tale so tall I cannot tell it, nor songs so sweet I cannot sing it”. Davis portrays Fishy Waters with sweetness, intelligence, and a wry sense of humor. Davis as Waters explains in song and story the difference between a “hobo” and a “bum”: “I’m tired of people calling me a bum. I’m a hobo, there is a difference. A bum won’t work. But a hobo will do any job you got…”.
Davis moves easily from blues standards like Candy Man and Walking Blues, to his own original blues tunes like Come And Get It and the very lively Georgia Rag. He involves his audience in his stories, often moving you to the edge of your seat waiting to see how one of his many colorful characters employ their wit and sense of humor will turn out in their many predicaments. Davis mixes the stories and music quite well for a lively and fun production.
Though that era’s hobo culture has become the stuff of legend, Davis character speaks to the present as a man who was left a stable, if static, life as a sharecropper to follow his heart while struggling to make ends meet. In one sequence, Davis tells Fishy’s tale of chain gangs and dog chases in a duel of voice and instrument, feeding the revival of interest in authentic, acoustic music and deeply rooted blues. His deceptively simple, yet multilayered rhythms, guitar picking, sliding and harmonica phrasing transports listeners to say Fishy”s era, when electric guitars and fancy drum sets or not needed to make music.
The lighting, projections, and set design add to the magic. You are instantly transported to an abandoned set of railroad tracks somewhere in rural Alabama circa the 1930s, complete with an old washed out billboard upon which is projected scenes of men down on their luck, passenger and cargo trains going north and south, and advertisements of the day. Waters offers you a little bit of coffee––of course, spiked with just the right amount of ‘Hard Stuff’–– as he shares his many stories of the road. Waters never regrets for one minute the life choice that he’s made, or the people he’s met.
For those of you who are still looking for an event to attend to celebrate Black history month, going no further than the Crossroads Theater and enjoy an evening of blues and stories––“The Adventures of Fishy Waters In Bed With The Blues.”