“Mama Juggs” deals with a serious topic in a very entertaining way
Wednesday, July 31, 2013 10:54 pm
Lynn Felder/Special Correspondent
“Mama Juggs,” which opened Wednesday night in the Gaines Ballroom of the Embassy Suites, is a freewheeling one-woman show about three women and their relationships with their breasts. It was written and is performed by Anita Woodley.
Woodley grew up in Oakland, Calif., and now lives in Durham. In “Mama Juggs,” she channels the wise and wacky Great-Grandma Suga Babe; Woodley’s late mother, Mable-ree, who died of breast cancer before she turned 50; and Anita Woodley herself as a pubescent girl.
In just over an hour, Woodley sings, dances and creates these women’s worlds and the stories of their feelings about their bodies and their lives.
Young Anita, impatient for her breasts to grow, stuffs her bra with toilet paper. That doesn’t work out too well. Later, when Young Anita has a child of her own, Great-Grandma Suga Babe makes up songs to teach her how to breast-feed successfully.
Great-Grandma Suga Babe is just outrageous, and a lot of what comes out of her mouth is adult content. Much of the show is raunchy and raw, but also truthful and poignant.
When the doctors found a dime-sized lump in Mable-ree’s breast, fear kept her from seeking a complete diagnosis until it was too late. A self-described fat woman with breast cancer, Mable-ree recalls the time before her “titty broke” when she was attractive and had lots of boyfriends — but not so many that she could be called “nasty.”
When Mable-ree talks with Jesus at midnight and sings gospel songs, she no longer feels afraid.
One in 50 women got breast cancer in 2012, according to the American Cancer Society, but the mortality rate among black women is about one-third higher than in whites — mainly because they don’t have access to or don’t seek early diagnosis and treatment.
Before she died, Mable-ree exacted a promise from Woodley to do a show that would raise awareness of breast cancer in the black community.
Why is it that we avoid the very subjects that we most need to discuss?
No more than a half- dozen people showed up for the opening-night performance, and that’s a shame, because it’s both an entertaining show and an important subject.
But the main reason that “Mama Juggs” should be seen is that it’s flat-out hilarious.