Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

The Sensational Sea Mink-ettes
Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's recent review of Private Jones

The Cast
Photo by Teresa Castracane
The Sensational Sea Mink-ettes, receiving its world premiere at Washington's Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, is more than it seems at first. The work by Vivian J.O. Barnes starts out as a straightforward story of six young women rehearsing a dance routine for homecoming at their Historically Black College before venturing into decidedly odd territory.

The Sea Mink-ettes are a tradition at their college: one member notes that both her mother and grandmother served on the team in their student days. Their captain, Shanteé (Billie Krishawn), is a no-nonsense woman who expects nothing less than total commitment from her team members–even though a couple of them haven't been at rehearsal in days–and she drills into them that they must produce "excellence or nothing."

As delineated by the playwright and guided by director Taylor Reynolds, each member makes a distinct impression. Maya (Kimberly Dodson) is more focused on getting into graduate school than she is in synchronized movement, while freshman Aleyse (Lauren Fraites) needs to prove herself. Best buddies Racquel (Kalen Robinson) and Gabby (Khalia Muhammad) are their own unit, pushing to add their original rap song to the homecoming program, and Kiera (Sabrina Lynne Sawyer) has a peculiar obsession with Beyoncé.

But that isn't all. Ominous, inexplicable things happen throughout the 90-minute run time, which could be a manifestation of the women's total devotion to perfection or could have a supernatural cause. These are things they can't control, like when the stadium lights (lighting design by Minjoo Kim) flicker or shut down for no apparent reason, and the physical absence of one woman leads to her erasure from others' memories.

The playwright's underlying theme is the mindset that success is only possible through self-negation and utter devotion to a shared goal. The question is when straining for perfection becomes a destructive burden rather than an aim worth achieving.

Reynolds has worked with her cast to bring out excellent individual and group performances without a weak link. Robinson and Muhammad are the funniest and sweetest, while Krishawn acts as the anchor. Danielle Preston's costume designs, mostly athletic wear in vibrant colors and animal prints, help bring individuality to these women working to be moving parts in a larger effort.

The Sensational Sea Mink-ettes runs through March 3, 2024, at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, 641 D St. NW, Washington DC. For tickets and information, please call 202-393-3939 or visit

By Vivian J.O. Barnes
Directed by Taylor Reynolds

ShanteƩ: Billie Krishawn
Aleyse: Lauren Fraites
Maya: Kimberly Dodson
Kiera: Sabrina Lynne Sawyer
Racquel/Dionne: Kalen Robinson
Gabby/Nikki: Khalia Muhammad