Friday September 22nd 2017

“Bang the Drum Slowly”

Here it is, baseball season and the Raven Theatre, on a weekend where the south side destroyed the north side in the “crosstown classic” opens one of the greatest baseball themed plays ever written- “Bang the Drum Slowly” written by Mark Harris ( adapted for the stage by Eric Simonson). This is a trip down memory lane when it comes to America’s “past-time”. Baseball- a time before Free agency and  baseball being a money orientated sport. It was a time when players played for the love of the game and in the off season, held other jobs, to make ends meet. Sure, the players wanted to win the World Series and get the bonus money attached , but it was more for the glory of winning that they played and traveled about the country, living in hotels, riding buses and trains and leaving their families back home.

As I wrote the above, it brings me to think about some of our marvelous theater companies in town. The many storefronts where actors ply their trade for th elove of the art as the paycheck is very slim. They also are part of a team- actors, tech peoplle, director, writer, stage manager, box office people who assemble all the parts that make a production complete and give enjoyment and entertainment to their audiences. Raven Theatre , which has been around since 1983 is one of these marvelous companies ( nearing 30 years of quality productions) an dtheir home is an old grocery store which has been restructured into two marvelous theaters. More importantly, they bring us some of the best work and this production under the skillful eye of director Michael Menedian is sheer genius.

Our story follows the New York teams’ number one “southpaw”, Henry “Author” Wiggens ( a solid performance by Michael Stegall), who has a special friendship with room-mate Bruce Pearson ( Deftly handled by Kevin Duvall), a third string catcher, who it turns out is very ill. Author renegotiates his contract to include a provision that wherever he goes, so goes Bruce, knowing that if word leaked out about his imminent death, he would be cut and have no livelihood at all. During the play we learn a great deal about the “men of summer” and the special relationships and bonds that make a team, a team. This is one of the books that Harris wrote about baseball, and I am now prepared to read the others as I, an avid baseball fan, want to explore his characters and learn more about his work.

This is a very tight cast of actors, many who I have not seen on a stage in the area before, but most of whom I expect to see on many more stages in many more productions in the future.The cast includes, Nicholas Bailey, Carthy Dixon,Rudy Galvan, Jason Love ( in a series of roles from translator for the Latino player to a hotel doctor), Jonathan Nichols, Jen Short, Mario Solis, Jeff Taylor, Dan Toot, Joshua J. Volkers, Antoine Pierre Whitfiled,Kristen Williams ( who also takes on three roles) and the incredible Tim Walsh as “Dutch” Schnell, team manager. While the theme of this story is baseball, don’t let that turn you off. It is about people caring for people and relationships and a strong bond that can come between two people, from different walks of life, who by sheer coincidence and chance become the best of friends, loyal to each other through thick and thin. I would say that even if you hate baseball and sports, you will love the story that is told so well in this solid production.

As I stated earlier, a play is one that eeds teamwork to make it special, an dthis one has a team that played its positions to perfection. The set by Andrei Onegin,lighting by Kurt Ottinger,sound by Peter Storms, costumes by Kate Murphy ( the uniforms looked pretty authentic), props by Mary O’Dowd and the fight choreography (David Woolley and Sam Hubbard) were the players that make the production whole!

“Bang The Drum Slowly” will continue at The Raven Theatre located at 6157 N. Clark Street ( at Granville) through June 30th with performances as follows:

Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.

Tickets are $30 ( a real value for entertainment of this quality) and can be purchased by calling the box office at 773-338-2177 or online at www,RavenTheatre.com

There is limited street parking ( some metered, some not) and some free parking at the theater’s lot next door- The CTA might be the best way to go as the bus stops right there ( Clark Street 22)

for other looks at this production , visit the “Bang The Drum Slowly” page at www.theatreinchicago.com  

 

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