REVIEW: Trickster (Halcyon Theatre)


Epic tale propelled by audacious scope; uncompromising artistic vision


Riso Straley and Scott Allen Luke--Photo byTom McGrath

Halcyon Theatre presents
Written and Directed by Tony Adams
Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln (map)
through Jan 30  | 
tickets: $18 – $20 |  more info

Review by Catey Sullivan

With Trickster, Halcyon Theatre takes on a wildly ambitious epic of ancient Native American lore woven into a contemporary story of survival in apocalyptic world. Written and directed by Halcyon Theatre’s Artistic Director Tony Adams, the piece’s challenging, provocative sprawl of interlocking tales doesn’t always form the most coherent narrative. But what it lacks in clarity, it makes up for in sheer audacious scope and an uncompromising artistic vision.

Arch Harmon as Fox--Photo byTom McGrathWithin the animal world, the earth’s four-legged creatures battle a dark fate overseen by a cruel Wolf Master. At the same time, a rag-tag group of humans try to stay alive in a burned out landscape where water and food are scarce and marauding soldiers are everywhere. Think ‘The Road’ merged with a highly sexualized take on Aesop’s Fables merged with the intricate Native American belief system of Spirit Animals and you’ve got a good idea as to the ruling aesthetic that governs Trickster.

Adams’ wild ride begins with a slam poet cry to a muse, and a violently worded harbinger of what’s to come. From there, the audience lurches to a fever-dream of a sex scene where in two dimly lit bestial creatures are making the beast with two backs. The illicit union of Swan (Christine Lin) and Coyote (Scott Allen Luke) leads to Coyote being chased to river, where he jumps in and assumes the shape of a stone. Flash-forward 500 years: Coyote has emerged from the river and been restored to his regular shape, only to find a world in ruins.

Competing storylines ensue as the animals attempt to redeem a world that’s a burnt-out husk and the humans try to keep from starving or death or being gang-raped by soldiers. The primary trouble with Trickster lies in the editing process: plots and sub-plots branch out from each other like an endless root system continually stretching out, increasingly tiny branches moving ever farther from the primary trunk. The result is that Trickster becomes compartmentalized – defined by many different storylines that don’t always add up to an emotionally resonant, authentically connected whole. The piece would benefit from some judicious pruning. At almost three hours, Trickster sometimes rambles despite the truly streamlined pacing.

As for Adams’ epic-sized cast of 19, it’s a beautiful thing to behold. This is the rare ensemble that truly reflects Chicago. Despite the best of intentions, the vast majority of theater companies simply don’t look like the city they spring from: Color blind casting doesn’t happen with any degree of regularity in Chicago. Halcyon is fiercely committed to it and with ensembles such as the one in Trickster, offers proof that diversity and excellence are hardly mutually-exclusive concepts. Halcyon is leading towards the time when multi-ethnic casting is the norm and doesn’t even warrant a mention.

There are several beguiling performances within Trickster’s ranks – Yadira Correa is delicious as a predatory owl intent on eating children. Riso Straley absolutely gets the combination of vulnerability borne of irrecoverable heartbreak and untouchable toughness borne of surviving in a battle-hardened world.

Scott Allen Luke, Arch Harmon and Rafael Franco--Photo byTom McGrath (R to L) Riso Straley, Derrick York and Rudy Galvan in Trickster--Photo byTom McGrath

Others don’t fare quite so consistently well: It’s difficult to understand much of the dialogue that springs from Fox (Arch Harmon) – his words are muffled, his diction muddy. And despite the cast’s size, there’s some distracting double/triple casting going on: As the final scenes wore on, it felt like the same three or so characters kept getting killed. When an actor gets his throat cut, shows up a few scenes later to have his neck broken, and shows up still later to suffer a fatal gunshot wound, well, the impact of the violence is diminished.

The production benefits greatly from costume designer Izumi Inaba’s work, which is a playful, furry example of creativity triumphing the constraints of a small budget. Her canine creations are the strongest, wild and wooly headpieces that emulate the spirit of the animals the actors are depicting, if not their literal appearance. Adam’ spare, burnt orange scenic design evokes the blistering heat of the great southwest, as well as the ancient art of the cultures who lived there millennia before the white folks showed up.

Halcyon Theatre demands a lot of its audiences. This isn’t the theater of effortless escapism. Instead, Adams takes you down a dark and difficult path, demands that you pay attention and leaves you with a brain overloaded with questions of morality, philosophy and the intricate nature of the human condition.

Rating: ★★½

Helen Young and Jennifer Adams in Trickster-- Photo byTom McGrath

Featuring: Jenn Adams, Yadira Correa, Delicia Dunham, Rafael Franco, Rudy Galvan, Johnny Garcia, Kamal Hans, Arch Harmon, Arvin Jalandoon, Christine Lin, Scott Allen Luke, Goli Rahimi, Johanna Middleton, Julie Mitre, Ruth Schilling, Riso Straley, Helen Young and Derrick York. (Cast & Production Team bios after the jump)





Jenn Adams (Sarah, Associate Artistic Director) founded Halcyon Theatre with her husband, Tony, just about six years ago, and has been trying to get on stage in a show ever since! Jenn graduated from Salem State College in 1998 with her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Acting, spent a year touring with Hampstead Payers, and made her way to the Windy City in September of 1999. With Halcyon Jenn has directed:  The Visit, Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories, A Bold Stroke for a Wife, The Other Shoreand A Shroud for Lazarus. Around Chicago, Jennifer has directed No Exit (co-directed), Girl Gone, and Caucasian Chalk Circle, among others. She has been seen onstage in an adaptation of Trojan Women: A Love Story, Evangeline, and A Bright Room Called Day, and designed costumes for Black Comedy and, most recently, Halcyon Theatre’s Cloud Tectonics. So much love and "spekal tanks" to Tony for journeying through life and theatre with her, and to their two beautiful children, Tony Jr. and Charlotte. Also a special thank you to the cast and crew for their support while we balance theatre and family. They have been awesome to work with!

Yadira Correa (Mole/Owl Woman) Yadira Correa is having a lot of fun in Chicago’s theatre scene. She cultivated a lot of her work with Teatro Luna (Chicago’s All Latina Theatre Company), including Lunatica(s), Jarred andMacho’s in addition she has worked with an array of Chicago Theatres such as Collaboraction in Sketchbook, Stage Left Theatre for Leapfest, Ignition Fest 2010 at Victory Gardens, Urban Theatre Company y eso sigue.  I just finished summer school at The School at Steppenwolf 2010 and I am happy to be working, playing and sharpening my tools in Chi-city. I want to thank Halcyon for inviting me to play and explore, in this telling of tales, not sure if these tales would have made themselves to my ear if it wasnt for you. Thank you to my guides and thank you for supporting live theatre.

Delicia Dunham (Estella/Meadow Lark/Water Maiden 2/) happily returns, having made her Halcyon Theatre debut in the Alcyone Festival 2009 production of Bounty of Lace. Chicago stage credits include: Trice (Chicago Scriptworks); For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/ When the Rainbow is Enuf (InnateVolution Theatre); Wine in the Wilderness (Stage Center Theatre); Me and Louis Armstrong (20% Theatre Company); The Ville(Bare Boned Theatre); Talking Bones (eta Creative Arts Foundation); Much Ado About Nothing (GroundUp Theatre); Death and the King’s Horseman (Fehinty African Theatre Ensemble); The Monologues of a Dark Child: Exposing the Dark Skin vs. Light Skin Complex (Anita Davis Dance Theater); Ed Ruscha: Art Institute After Dark (Collaboraction);Jane: Abortion and the Underground (20% Theatre Company); and Dancing at the Revolution(Thunder & Lightning Ensemble) . Film and television credits include Animal Witness (Animal Planet) and Justice Delayed (CourtTV).  Delicia holds a B.A. in Drama and English with certificate in Film and Video Studies from Duke University; a J.D. from Northwestern University; and has studied with Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Lou Conte Dance Studio, and Chicago Dramatists.

Rafael Franco (Wolf) Rafael Franco is honored to be working with Halcyon Theater again after appearing in Manual for a Desperate Crossing and our workshop of Coya Paz’s The Americans. After publishing an award-winning short story collection and a critically acclaimed novel in his native Puerto Rico, Rafael relocated to Chicago and began exploring the stage. As a third of the Rehab and Denial Collective, he is currently involved in writing and acting in Waiting, a play about academia, the restaurant industry and immigrants in the windy city. He is also a founding member of 7Vientos, a bilingual publishing venture, as well as a contributing editor for Contratiempo, the premier Spanish language cultural weekly in Chicago.

Rudy Galvan (Younger Swan Brother/Zoe) is happy to be working with Halcyon again. He last appeared in Manual for a Desperate Crossing as part of the 2010 Alcyone Festival. He has also appeared in Cherrywoodand Gas Mask 101 at Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co. He is currently a Junior at Columbia College Chicago, pursuing his BA in Acting. He would like to thank his family for their love and support.


Johnny Garcia (Bear) will have just finished performing in The Erpingham Camp as Kenny, with AstonRep Theatre Company. Before that he was Chaplain Koffa in Dracula: A Tragedy, in the month of October, with Redtwist Theatre, where he is the Development Outreach Coordinator. He was Escalus, Prince of Verona in The Tragedy Of Romeo and Juliet with Two Pence Shakespeare, Lonigan/Consul in My Sister Eileen, with Stage Center Theatre, and enjoyed a six month run as Ariel in The Pillowman at Redtwist. He previously appeared with Halcyon in A Shroud for Lazarus. He would like to thank Tony for the opportunity.

Kamal Hans (Abe) Kamal Hans is excited to work with Halcyon again having previously appeared in Militant Language and Letters from Cuba. In addition to being a successful business professional, I am the Managing Director of Rasaka Theatre and a working actor and producer in TV, film, and theater in Chicago. My studies include the DePaul Theatre School, Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, The Julliard School and Illinois Wesleyan University. Favorite roles include Dr. Aziz in A Passage To India, Devendra in the award-winningMerchant on Venice, Marius in Fanny, Caliban in Shakespeare’s Tempest, Salieri in Amadeusand Anatoly in Chess. Thank you to my family for their support and especially my wife Mandavi.

Arch Harmon (Fox) Company member of Halcyon Theatre. Company member of National Pastime Theatre. "There is no doubt that many a man owes his good fortune in life solely to the circumstance that he has a pleasant way os smiling and so wins the heart in his favor. However, the heart would do better to be careful and to remember what Hamlet put down in his tablets–that on may smile and smile and smile and be a villain."~Arthur Schopenhauer.

Arvin Jalandoon (Gerardo/Spirit Chief) Arvin, being one of the ensemble of Halcyon, is authentically happy to be part of this new project. He was part of last spring’s, What of the Night with a great cast. He is in wonder at being part again of another exemplary group of gifted actors in unfolding The Story. After his last forey on camera work in American Cancer Society and Central Dupage Hospital, he is glad to be back again in the arms of his true mistress, The Theatre Stage. Special thanks to those who have have helped him in his growth. Hi to Susan and Ed. He is grateful to all those who have made his growth so meaningful. To Jim and Peter. As with All Living things, Each with it’s Own gifts.

Christine Lin (Swan Woman) Christine is very happy to be on stage again with Halcyon in Trickster and the upcoming Iphigenia…(a rave fable)! She just finished Asian-American group Stir-Friday Night’s 15th sketch comedy revueBubble Tea Party! and looks forward to InFusion Theatre’s Soul Samuraistarting in April. Christine’s also worked with the Goodman, Silk Road Theatre Project, and SiNNERMAN Ensemble and graduated from Steppenwolf West’s Ensemble Intensive Program, Second City Training Center’s Improv Conservatory, and Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering. Hobbies include quality time with her cat Iggy, painting wall murals, learning new things like martial arts or differentiating whiskeys, and generally causing trouble. Many warm thanks to her family, friends, Jenn & Tony, Paonessa Talent, and YOU for your generous support, love, and sense of adventure!

Scott Allen Luke (Coyote/Ben) is happy to be back with Halcyon Theatre. Previously with Halcyon, he played the role of Landolph in Pirandello’s Henry IV. Most recently, Scott understudied for Northlight Theatre’s A Civil War Christmas. Just before that, he played the role of Manky in Ka Tet Theatre’s critically acclaimed production of Bertolt Brecht’s In the Jungle of Cities. Scott has also played with Lifeline Theatre, Next Theatre, Light Opera Works, The Mill Theatre Co., Raven Theatre, Circle Theatre, Chase Park Theatre, Lincoln Square Theatre, and Rubicon Theatre Project which he co-founded and serves as Managing Director. Scott has also appeared in the feature film Secrets of the Clown, and many short films and commercials. Watch for him on TV in the current “Mix-a-Snack” spot for White Castle!

Goli Rahimi (Cricket) Goli recently graduated from the University of Michigan with a double B.A. in English and Theatre, concentrating in Playwriting. A Chicago native, Goli worked at both Goodman Theatre and Chicago Children’s Theatre, taught improvisation to young children at the Improv Playhouse. Recently, Goli served as the Director of Development for the State Theatre of Chicago and is now head of the Fundraising Committee for the 2011 Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed Conference in Chicago. As a playwright, Goli had two original works premiere at the Mary Arrchie Theatre. Her full length, Earwig was presented at the University of Michigan Playfest, and The Inheritance is winner of the 2010 Dennis McIntyre Prize for Distinction in Undergraduate Playwriting.

Johanna Middleton (Hajar) Johanna Middleton is so grateful for this challenging opportunity and is excited to be back at Halcyon after appearing in last season’s Sarita. Hailing from Los Angeles, Johanna is a senior at Northwestern University and will graduate from its theatre department in June. Past Northwestern credits include Air Guitar High, The Cradle Will Rock, The Winter Barrel, Indians, and Charlotte’s Web. She also spent the majority of last year touring Chicago public schools in Project US, a participatory theatre piece encouraging positive dialogue about safe sex. Thanks to her teachers, friends, and family.

Julie Mitre (Rita) is absolutely thrilled to return to Halcyon Theatre. She was last seen as Birdie in What of the Night and Eleanora in Orra with Halcyon’s Alcyone Festival. Recent credits include The Man Who Came To Dinner(Theatre Nebula), A Majority of One (The James Downing Theatre), We Men Must Grow A Mustache, (Prologue Theatre Festival), How I Learned to Drive(Village Players), The OldestProfession (Open Door Repertory Theatre), The Wake (Chemically Imbalanced Comedy), and Little Women (Theatre-Hikes). Julie portrayed Alice in Enter Alice and Edith in Why They Invented Dancing, performed in Chicago and at the 2003 New York Fringe Festival (UMA Productions). Julie has appeared in several commercials and independent films. She is a former dancer with Midwest Dance Theatre, Indianapolis. “Thanks to my husband Isaac for his encouragement and support.”

Leana Savoie (Mink) is excited to make her Chicago debut in Trickster. Previous credits include: Love’s Labours Lost; Seven Against Thebes; Marriage, Medicine, Money and Mayhem; Nancy Drew and the Mystery of the Old Clock; Macbeth; Too Much Light Makes the Baby go Blind; That Other Person (University California San Diego).  A Midsummer Night’s Dream; The House of Bernarda Alba; OH THE HUMANITY and other Good Intentions(British American Drama Academy).  Balm in Gilead (Steppenwolf West Summer Intensive).

Ruth Schilling (Molly) Halcyon brought me back to the stage with the wonderful role of Reba in What of the Night? and here I am again and happy  to be so engaged! I have had a variety of theatrical experiences in my hometown of Tacoma, Washington – doing community theater and army theater -and also in that great city, San Francisco, during the Vietnam war. I came to Chicago attracted by the scene that was happening in the 70s with the Organic Theatre, Body Politic and Victory Gardens. Favorite roles from those early years in Chicago are Wilma in Rimers of Eldridge, Simone in Marat/Sade, The Warden in Women Behind Bars, Fiona in Towards the Morning and Vilma in Summer Stock Murders. It is always life-changing to be back on stage. I wish you light on your journey. Peace and love.

Riso Straley (Swan Brother/Marcus) A graduate from the University of West Florida with a BFA in Theatre, this is Riso’s third performance with Halcyon. He was last seen as Segundo (2nd Brother) in The Mammals production of 7 Snakes. Past production include Nelson in Welcome to Arroyo’s (B-Cast) with ATC; A Shroud for Lazarus & F$@king Parasites with Halcyon. He would like thank his future wife Noel and his friends and family for their support.

Helen Young (Beatriz) Helen Young is extremely excited to play with the talented folks Halcyon because she loves the passion they have for diversity! Other Theatre credits: Under America (Mortar) Skin of our Teeth (Artistic Home); Our Kind of Violence (Stage Left- Leap Fest); Day on Which a Man Dies (National Pastime); The Wind Cries Mary (A-Squared); Orra (Halcyon);Cut to the Quick (Side Project); Antigone’s Red, Like The Moon Behind The Clouds (Caffeine); Silk u/s(Goodman); Laramie Project (Janus); Einstein’s Dreams, Frugal Love (Moving Dock); Kafka on the Shore u/s (Steppenwolf). Film Credits:Stranger Than Fiction.

Derrick York (Dan) A relative newcomer to the Chicago theatre scene, Derrick has found a niche as an Artistic Associate of Halcyon Theatre. He worked with them as Production Stage Manager of the Alcyone Festival 2010. He last appeared on stage in Nothing Without A Company’s Zombies Attack Chicago 2009. He has a BA in Theatre from Alma College.



Derrick York and Rudy Galvan in Trickster--Photo byTom McGrath



Tony Adams (Director/Scenic Design/Artistic Director) Tony Adams is a Chicago based theatre artist, husband and father, and artistic director of Halcyon Theatre. has hundreds of credits as a director, designer, actor, writer and producer. Before moving to the Chicago, Tony was in Paris where he worked as an actor, director, writer and designer. As co-founder and Artistic Director of Halcyon, he has worked on each of Halcyon’s productions to date. He also staged managed twice. He is a horrible stage manager.

Izumi Inaba (Costume Design) Izumi Inaba is a costume designer based in Chicago. Her favorite local credits include: Greensboro (Steep Theatre), Fantasticks (Porchilight Music Theatre), Stage Door (Griffin Theatre), and most recently CPS Shakespeare! Romeo and Juliet(Chicago Shakespeare Theatre). She has also designed the makeup for Cats (Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre), and the sets for Opera: No Exit (Chicago Opera Vanguard) and for Rhinoceros (Northwestern). She has been a costume designer for National High School Institute (Cherubs) since 2007. B.A. in Theatre and Dance, University at Buffalo. M.F.A. in Stage Design, Northwestern University.

Frank Schneider (Lighting Design) Frank Schneider is on the faculty of the Latin School where he teaches, directs, and designs. He has directed, designed, and acted in Chicago for many years, with many companies that no longer exist. He hopes this does not bode ill for Halcyon. After a hiatus from professional theatre to concentrate on his teaching he is happy to be part of this production. Thanks to my support system and especially Kristin.

Zebulun Barnow (Sound Design and Music) Born in Marquette, MI in 1970. Spent most of his life living in and around Chicago. Began formal musical study while in pre-school but did not excel until he was allowed to join Concert Band and play percussion in 1978.  Since then he has been in some exceptionally good bands and some embarrassingly lousy ones, recorded some very good songs and some not so good.  Along the way he wrote a few books and posed for a few pictures. Currently he is a musician with Blue Man Group in Chicago and is Music Director and principal performer for B1g T1me, the Tom Waits tribute show.More information can be found at

Jesse Gaffney (Properties Design) I am a freelance props master, tech director and production manager working in Chicago. I love antique stores, upholstery, food props, crown moulding and fine furniture construction. I think passion is the most important thing if you want to create great theatre.

Greg Poljacik (Fight Design) A Halcyon company member, Greg received his training from a burly fight guru named Gregg Lloyd at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, VA (that’s in the very southeast corner right by Virginia Beach, a bunch of warships and a very large shipbuilding crane). In the four years he has been in Chicago he has choreographed over 25 shows with a wide range of theatre companies. He has been a teaching assistant at March Madness 2009 in Cincinnati, as well as assistant to Neil Massey at Roosevelt University, and is currently the Assistant Coordinator for the Winter Wonderland Workshop, the largest stage combat workshop in the U.S. Greg also makes swords with Neil Massey at Rogue Steel…that’s right, swords.

Ilana Faust (Movement Consultant) Ilana Faust is happy to be working again with Halcyon, having previously appeared in Yerma. A former dancer, and currently pursuing certification to teach Pilates, Ilana has been moving since the age of three. Since she got to Chicago four years ago, she has appeared in Teatro Luna‘s Machos, Teatro Vista‘s Our Lady of the Underpass and Goodman’s The Sins of Sor Juana among others. Ilana holds a BA in performance from the University of Illinois and has done internships and workshops with Redmoon and Plasticene Physical Theatre, to name a few. Lately she’s been taking every couse the magnificent Paola Colleto has to offer. ‘Physical Theatre is just Theatre, with a deeper concience of your body.’

Ruth Schilling (Vocal Coach) I have played piano since childhood.  My piano teacher was the church pianist and she taught me for $1.00 a lesson.  Studied classical singing and was fortunate to do some oratorio work at St. Mark’s church in Evanston.  Also was the musician for their early family service.  I figured I could coach actors from my experience teaching pre-teen girls at the wonderful Metro Achievement Center.  I love to sing but also really love getting others to sing their hearts out! (see more under cast bios.)

Arch Harmon and Scott Allen Luke in Trickster--Photo byTom McGrath   Julie Mitre and Delicia Dunham in Trickster--Photo byTom McGrath Johanna Middleton and Riso Straley--Photo byTom McGrath

(All bios from Halcyon webpage)


One Response

  1. […] lights make the world jump to life. And the cast captures Svich’s dark sense of humor, especially Rafael Franco, Derrick York, and Arvin Jalandoon as the ghosts. The run time is a little over an hour with no […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: