A homegrown, self-funded theater company in Chicago, is making an exclamatory roar with a stunning production of "In The Blood" a 2000 Pulitzer Prize finalist. Written by Suzan-Lori Parks, inspired by Nathaniel Hawthorne's historical fiction Novel "The Scarlet Letter" This Production is very strong in many ways. I wish that I had saw this body of art sooner.
Directed by Chicago's own Aaron Reese Boseman, this strong talented ensemble of six, who all accept one play multiple parts to make up the cast of eleven. In the Blood is the story of the impoverished Hester La Negrita's mission for redemption. She tries to make a way for her and her five children but is instead is constantly used, abused, and condemned by everyone around her. Suzan-Lori Parks doesn't stop any of the punches in this text. Along with Boseman's direction and Dozier's original score make a perfect blend for a Master piece.
Nyajai Ellison's skillful approach to Hester is truly masterful. I honestly thought Viola Davis was the queen of snot and spit in a dramatic scene....... Viola meet Nyajai! Not only does she snot and spit, Nyajai also sweats! Midway through the performance my heart wept for Hester, a black woman who was trying to NOT be dependent on the system, but had no other choice. Reese's direction and Nyajai's choices for Hester made me want to give a donation to her cause, this woman was not looking for a hand out however, a hand to help her up. Not having basic learning skills of writing or reading.
Hester still managed to push through to make sure her children were taken care of even if it meant, that she would go without food. My mind wondered a few times about the pain that erupted from her stomach; let me point out Warren Jackson's sound design. Every time we heard the eruption of Hester’s stomach, it became a sound of agony and pain that literally vibrated the entire auditorium. I wanted to be the sandwich that would fulfill her hunger. One thing Hester has taught me is compassion and strength.
What I loved about this cast is the versatility of this STRONG ensemble of actors. This is truly some of the best work I've seen on stage by a small cast this 2018-2019 season.
One of my favorite actors in Chicago who's been making a name for himself Stephen Allen who gave an amazing portrayal as Baby/ Reverend D. to visually see this actor go from a loving needy toddler to a ignorant selfish preacher who knows his past but also still has residue from the man he used to be. Allen's performance was second to none. Simean Carpenter's Lighting design really stood out to me particularly in the scenes with Reverend, each scene was lit so well, i truly felt like I was under a bridge or in a dark alley. I was very excited to see the growth of Jabber (Ian Mayfield) from the eldest child of Hesters who seemed to be a little mentally challenged, ended up being Hester's worst regret. A parallel I found very intriguing in this text was the Doctor
It amazes me how society was played through this character, Doctor kept referring to "the higher ups" that kept coming down on him to pressure Hester to remove her female parts, However Doctor still wanted his own needs met, time and time again. We as people love to point the finger and give guilt to others just to be pleasured. Again the acting was superb and second to none. The ensemble did amazing with double roles. Amiga (Alison Schaufler) was another favorite of the evening, we all have that one friend that seems good to use, but is always out for themselves than anything. Her double role as Beauty was also carefully cast it's very humorous that the Caucasian female child was named Beauty, and she surly acted like a princess. Shout out to the costume designer (Ruben Echoles) for very simplistic ideas for a fast pace, in your face production, with very little room to play on costume design. and the wardrobe assistant for helping with the quick changes.
The emotional journey that Hester takes us on through this thought provoking production, awakens the inner man, it's truly a production of self- evaluation, self- reflection, and the mood of Black Girl Magic! What a timeless piece that is still yet awaking the view of society thought the eyes of the impoverished. My least favorite character of the evening would be Welfare (Tarina Bradshaw) this young lady did her job, just as any welfare person would, however her as well took advantage of Hester, and Hester just trying to get ahead. I still have a question about what happen to that red fabric. we as people who have nourishment , shelter and extra thing that make life easier, we tend to take life for granted and not to mention the strength of a WOMAN! Women can just do some things better then men. I would like to congratulate this entire cast and crew on an amazing eye opening production. What I love about self funded local theater is; the possibilities that millennial producers and creative teams CREATE, especially those of color.
These companies produce some great work that is often overlooked, under funded, and power packed full of non-union talent! I challenge the theater goer this season to make extra time to sow funds into these self- funded companies, see these productions, be involved; volunteer , teach, help, go see these shows! SUPPORT LOCAL THEATER !!!!
Theatre Critic Bring It Black Chicago
In The Blood by Suzan-Lori Parks
Directed by Aaron Reese Boseman
Original Score by Paris Ray Dozier
Stephen “Blu” Allen as Reverend D/Baby, Tarina Bradshaw as Welfare/Bully, Nyajai Ellison as Hester La Negrita, Ian Maryfield as Chilli/Jabber, Alison Schaufler as Amiga Gringa/Beauty, and Austyn Williamson as Doctor/Trouble.
Taylor Adams, Lydia Burke, Julia Germeroth, Robin Minkens, and Henry Taylor Pittman
Stage Manager | Toni Ward Scenic Design | Pablo Ponce
Lighting Design | Sim Carpenter Costume Design | Rueben Echoles
Sound Design | Warren Jackson Fight Choreography | Demetra Drayton AD\Choreography | Ben F. Locke