Tuesday January 23rd 2018

“Beauty’s Daughter”

 

 

Highly Recommended **** For over 30 years, American Blues Theater Company has been bringing stories of “identity” to its stage(s). I say stage(s) because they do not have their “own” stage, but have been a partner to many different houses. In their new “home” at Stage 773, they are now presenting a singularly sensational one woman show “Beauty’s Daughter” written by Dael Orlandersmith and starring the incredible Wanachristine. The notes say that this 90 minute production is “One woman’s journey through life’s obstacles in an East Harlem neighborhood”. In reality there are many characters; Diane ( who starts and ends the journey), Papo, Blind Louie, Mary Askew, Beauty and my favorite Anthony.

Each of these characters are from the “hood”, living in rough times and are connected by Diane.  Wandachristine’s  solo performance is powerful as we watch her change personalities and costumes, with each one talking to us, telling us their story, and mixing the blend of words almost like the beat of music. Smoothly directed by Ron OJ Parson on the smaller stage at Stage 773, the intimate 70 seat venue with a smart set (Caitlin McLeod) that allows us to feel the roughness of the neighborhood as it transforms from apartment to bar, to apartment to club. The lighting (Jared Gooding) is defining, and the sound with tremendous original music (Eric Backus) powerful. Paul Deziel’s projections allow us to see much deeper into the the type of area that East Harlem represents, filled with characters who have very little to live for and with dreams and hopes that have vanished, or are about to. The costumes (Michael Alan Stein) and the props (Mary O’Dowd) are the crowning touches of the technical aspects of this sterling production.

Orlandersmith writes from her life and her heart and it is very obvious that Parson and Wandachristine “get-it”! This piece was given an Obie Special Award Citation for a solo performance piece. There are indeed six (maybe even one more) stories in this production and I must say that my favorite was the “When You Talk About Music” segment, where we meet Anthony, a white man who has had a rough day with wife and kid problems and heads off alone to a wedding. Here he meets Diane, a black woman and finds himself both challenged by this woman and in love with her, at the same time. She convinces him that the music he once played and gave up is still possible and has great influence on the rest of the story. I won’t give it away, but just this segment is worth buying the ticket.

Watching Wandachristine work and listening to the words written by Orlandersmith made me understand the characters and at the same time think back to the stories that we heard from story-tellers such as Studs Terkel, who told us of his youth on Division Street and did the great interviews that were transformed into “Working”. Last year, Chicago had a special series of “Solos” performances , which drew a great deal of attention. This is as good as one could ask for and will educate and entertain you. The people are “real” and the presentation is almost musical in its mixture of poetry, music, and feeling!

“Beauty’s Daughter” will continue at Stage 773 located at 1225 West Belmont in Chicago thru August 5th with performances as follows:

Thursdays  7:30 p.m.

Fridays  7:30 p.m.

Saturdays  7:30 p.m.

Sundays  2:30 p.m.

On Wednesdays 7/19 and 7/24 there will be 7:30 p.m. shows and Wednesday 8/2 a 2:30 p.m. performance

Saturday, August 5th the performance will be at 3 p.m. instead of the 7:30 p.m. show

Tickets are $49 and can be purchased by calling 773-327-5252 or online at www.AmericanBluesTheater.com

SPECIAL ITEMS OF NOTE:

July 23rd open caption performance

Town Hall discussions

7/24 meet the creative team

7/30 meet the dramaturg and performer

8/2 Meet the Artistic Director and performer

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Beauty’s Daughter”

 

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