Theater Thursday: ‘5th of July’

Thursday, July 2

5th of July by Lanford Wilson
Oak Park Festival Theatre
Austin Gardens, Oak Park

5thofjulypicKick off the 4th of July holiday weekend a day early with Lanford Wilson‘s sequel to Talley’s Folly. A compassionate ensemble portrait of a generation trying to decide how to cope with the idealism of the 60’s. At once poignant and marvelously funny.  Prior to the performance there will be an opportunity to meet and talk with actors from the production, with appetizers courtesy of Wishbone Restaurant.

Event begins at 6:45 p.m.

Show begins at 8 p.m.

TICKETS ONLY $22 for adults, $17 for students and seniors
For reservations call 708.445.4440 and mention "Theater Thursdays" or buy online at http://oakparkfestival.org with code "ThTh."

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Theater Thursday is sponsored by this Chicago-area restaurant guide, as well as Chicago area bar guide,
 a great site for Chicago foodies and theater enthusiasts alike.

Filipino inmates pay their respect to Michael Jackson: dance to “I’ll Be There” and “We Are The World”

A tribute performed by 1,500 CPDRC Inmates (Filipino prisoners) on June 27, 2009 in memory of Michael Jackson. Completed in 10 hours after receiving word that the King of Pop passed away. May he always be remembered. “Ben” and “I’ll Be There” were sung by Michael when he was still younger! “We are the World” was composed and organized by Michael Jackson. Enjoy.

Think Fast: Rebecca Gilman, Rondi Reed and Mary Poppin’s walking tour of Avenue Q.

 

  • Audience members were in for an unexpected treat regarding yesterday’s final performance of the Tony award-winning August: Osage County: Rondi Reed, the originator of the role of the boozy Mattie Fae Aiken, returned to play the role for the last time.  Ms. Reed is currently performing the role of Madame Morrible in Wicked, which she returned to later on Sunday for an evening performance.
 
 
  • Oops – the main computer of Broadway in Chicago’s Mary Poppins crashed.  After 45-minutes of unsuccessful IT support, the audience was told the performance would have to be canceled.  Double oops.
 
 

Review: Creative Arts Foundation’s “Pill Hill”

Testing the Bonds of Brotherhood in Sam Kelley’s  “Pill Hill”

 "Pill Hill", by Sam Kelley, now playing at eta Creative Arts Foundation

The award winning eta Creative Arts Foundation wraps up its 38th season with a sterling production of Sam Kelley’s Pill Hill, a play that explores the journeys of 6 Chicago steel mill workers trying to realize economic and social success. Director Aaron Todd Douglas has honed his actors into a taut and dynamic ensemble. His direction shines at its best when it contrasts the vital camaraderie that unites these African American men with the unspoken truths, rationalizations, and false aspirations that throw each character into isolation.

Pill Hill is the black upper-class neighborhood on Chicago’s south side where these men aspire to live one day as a sign that they have “made it.” As some take their first tentative steps away from the steel mill, others get left behind—Charlie, the senior member of the group, who has worked there since migrating to Chicago from the South and Joe, who cannot bear to turn away from a sure paycheck, even though the mill inexorably grinds him down. Kelley’s play examines the toll that success takes on friendship, while acknowledging that the price of doing nothing is certainly just as high.

There is much to be said about Kelley’s keen eye on friendships between the men of Pill Hill. Most of that dynamic plays out between Joe (Kelvin Roston, Jr.) and Eddie (Anthony Peeples), in the crucible of their desire for a better life. Much as they both share their dreams of getting out of the mill and onto the Hill, more goes unsaid between them about the limits of their friendship when the stagnation of one strains against the overwhelming success of the other.

Indeed, the whole cast, under Douglas’s watchful direction, construct nuanced relationships between their characters, where what is not said matters as much as what is. Therefore, much is made about Joe’s need to move on from mill work, but silence surrounds his encroaching alcoholism; Scott (Cecil Burroughs) gets to revel in his glory days as a prospective football player, but no one confronts him about his descent into drug sales once his potential truly dries up; the guys remark frequently on Tony’s (Corey Spruill) natural abilities as a salesman, but none question his growing lack of a moral center.

Attention, as well as praise, must be paid to the most riveting monologue of the production, delivered by David Adams, as Charlie. It is critical to the play. It grounds it in the recognition that success can never be as simple to African Americans as it is for whites. Success for African Americans bears the awful burden of reflecting full-fledged personhood and first-class citizenship. Tragically, material success may also dangerously expose a black man as being “too uppity.” Charlie relates the time that Southern police officers pulled him over for the crime of driving his new Cadillac around his old hometown. After they have terrorized and humiliated him in front of his family, Charlie drives back to Chicago and puts the Cadillac up on blocks, not to be driven again, until a new sheriff has taken over, years later. Obviously, having more than white bigots think you deserve can get you into as much trouble as having nothing.

While having it all and having nothing contend most dramatically between Joe and Eddie, it’s the internal struggle between the two that wreaks the most havoc with Eddie’s soul. Eddie is the greatest achiever of the group, breaking the glass ceiling as the first black lawyer of a prestigious Chicago law firm. He becomes the group’s living symbol of promise and hope. But one almost wishes Eddie could be a little less successful, but a little more content, as is dear, henpecked Al (Kevin Hope). Peeple’s Eddie is ready to crack under the burden of it all—the success, the compromise that success demands of him, and especially, the childlike adulation of Joe, who is already so broken, no attempt can be made to hide it. Something has got to give. The showdown between Joe and Eddie is searing and unforgettable.

It is my hope that theatergoers who are familiar with the north side will head south to see this magnificent production. Douglas and cast strike the right balance between playfulness and tension, humor and anger, yearning, helplessness, and hope. While some dialogue may be stilted, Sam Kelley’s work truly ranks with other dramas that critique the American Dream, like Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman or David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross. Whatever its limits, this play examines something that the previous two works do not. It explores the modern day tests that are put to an African American brotherhood that is, all at once, flawed, endangered, compassionate, and powerful.

Rating:  ««««

Pill Hill runs through August 9th, at the eta Creative Arts Foundation, located at 7558 S Chicago Avenue.  For more info and tickets, call (773) 752-3955.

Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 8:00 P.M.
Sunday at 3:00 P.M. & 7:00 P.M.

 

For more info regarding eta Creative Arts, click on “Read more”

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Happy Pride Everyone!!

raising the rainbow flag

It’s been 40-years (to the day) since gay men and women finally said “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!”.  On that day, a haphazard group gay men and women, fought back against the New York police after one too many police raids on the Stonewall Inn..  These brave acts are now referred to as the Stonewall Riots, and mark the beginning of the modern-day gay rights movement.  Truly a reason to celebrate and be proud of!

But, as pointed out in the following Frank Rich New York Times op-ed, our community still has a long ways to go, including here in Illinois:

40 Years Later, Still Second-Class Americans

 

Sunday Night Sondheim – Polish video of West Side Story “Tonight”

A few comments: first, it really is a testament to Sondheim’s (and Leonard Bernstein’s) brilliance that their music is done all over the world and in so many languages. Second, is the Tony character lip-synching?  If so, it’s a crappy job.  Finally, don’t you love the stray dog that is hanging around Tony as he walks down the street???  🙂

Aaahh, aren’t they cute….

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