Wednesday January 17th 2018


    “S*** Happens! This is something that has been a mantra through many  generations. Each of our parents, grandparents, and for some of us, our kids and grandkids, have made this statement. In Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s World Premiere production of “BLKS”, it appears that the story line is a sort of self-portrait of the playwright, Aziza Barnes. The story is about three roommates who are in many ways very different but who also share the torment of living as a Black person in a White world. These ladies who are in their twenties, are discovering who they are and what path they want to take. Let me say this- this is not a play for everyone. There is a lot of the “F” word and we are asked to watch some unusual pairings as well as an attempted rape. Some of the content in this story will make you cringe, but one must look at the overall picture as painted by the playwright and with director Nataki Garrett’s story-telling, allows for the audience to feel for each of the three ladies and what is happening to them.

Octavia ( played to perfection by Nora Carroll) is probably the self-image of the playwright, more than the others. She is a lesbian and has a long-time lover, Ry (deftly handled by Danielle Davis). They are film-makers ( or should I say “wannabee filmmakers”) with very little success. Roomie Imani ( gloriously portrayed by Celeste M. Cooper) is a stand-up comic and the third roomie is June ( Leea Ayers) a very sharp college grad, who we learn has a solid job ( or does she?) These are the four black women, living in the heat of New York where every week, “Brothers” are being gunned down on the street and blacks are treated as different from their white counterparts.

This story starts out with a bang! Octavia finds a mole near her female parts and panic sets in. Is it Cancer? Can she live without having sex , ever again? So dismayed by this is she, that she sends her lover, Ry, packing, telling her to never come back. June comes home after finding out her boyfriend of many years is cheating on her and as the three roomies sip their cheap bourbon, they decide to his the clubs tonight and forget about the bad day they just had. They have many experiences during the night including becoming involved with what might be a rape and then  Imani meeting a young blonde woman (Kelly O’Sullivan who plays a few roles) who falls for her and tries to become more than a fan. The male roles in this play are all played by the very talented Namir Smallwood, who as Justin falls in love with June and follows her home. Later that evening, after asking to crash on her couch, he has an encounter with Octavia, which I will not tell you any more about, but it is very powerful.

One might say that this is a “coming of age” story of three distinctly different female personalities and how, in their own special way, they fuse their ideals and thoughts together to form a friendship that can never be broken, no matter what takes place. “BLKS” explores the lives of big city women who are faced with new thoughts and ideas every day, and we get to watch them come to terms with their destinies. While the content of the story is dramatic and very real, there are many great moments of comedy and you will find yourselves laughing ( even when you don’t expect to). The bonds of their friendship is more powerful than any of the fights and disagreements they have and all in all, if not for some of the language and sexual situations, I would say this is one to see. I am trying to imagine some of the Jeff Awards Committee people having to judge this one- what a picture!

The tech aspects of the show are terrific. Sibyl Wickersheimer’s set is very versatile allowing us to be in their apartment and then in a Manhattan club with very little movement of the set pieces. The lighting (Marcus Doshi) and sound (T. Carlis Roberts, who also did the original music) is A-ONE and the projection design (Rasean Davonte Johnson) truly made us feel the Manhattan flavor that I would imagine is exactly what Barnes and Garrett were striving for. It worked! The costumes (Trevor Bowen) were sheer perfection for the characaters and the figh choreography (Christina Gorman) made it all seem natural and realistic.

In the program is a note from the playwright-

“This is a play by BLK people and for BLK people. The absurd, the treacherous, the disgust, the heartbreak, the gorgeous of our days. I am inviting BLK people to live fully here. Those on stage and off.

For Y’all that don’t fit that description,

take your lead from the people that do.

And in the words of Richard Pryor,

“Let’s just all calm down and enjoy

whatever the f**k happens”

“BLKS” will continue at the Steppenwolf Thetare in the Upstairs Theater thru January 28th with performances as follows:

Thu, Dec 21: 7:30pm
Fri, Dec 22: 7:30pm
Sat, Dec 23: 3:00pm & 7:30pm
Tue, Dec 26: 7:30pm
Wed, Dec 27: 7:30pm
Thu, Dec 28: 7:30pm
Fri, Dec 29: 7:30pm
Sat, Dec 30: 3:00pm & 7:30pm
Sun, Dec 31: 3:00pm & 7:30pm
Tue, Jan 2: 7:30pm
Wed, Jan 3: 7:30pm
Thu, Jan 4: 7:30pm
Fri, Jan 5: 7:30pm
Sat, Jan 6: 3:00pm & 7:30pm
Sun, Jan 7: 3:00pm & 7:30pm
Tue, Jan 9: 7:30pm
Wed, Jan 10: 2:00pm & 7:30pm
Thu, Jan 11: 7:30pm
Fri, Jan 12: 7:30pm
Sat, Jan 13: 3:00pm & 7:30pm
Sun, Jan 14: 3:00pm
Tue, Jan 16: 7:30pm
Wed, Jan 17: 2:00pm & 7:30pm
Thu, Jan 18: 7:30pm
Fri, Jan 19: 7:30pm
Sat, Jan 20: 3:00pm & 7:30pm
Sun, Jan 21: 3:00pm
Tue, Jan 23: 7:30pm
Wed, Jan 24: 7:30pm
Thu, Jan 25: 7:30pm
Fri, Jan 26: 7:30pm
Sat, Jan 27: 3:00pm & 7:30pm
Sun, Jan 28: 3:00pm


Price: $20 – $89

Stage: Upstairs Theatre

Show Type: Drama

Box Office: 312-335-1650

The theater is located at 1650 N. Halsted Street

there is garage and lot parking as well as valet ($14 for valet)

discussions will take place after every performance!

To see what others are saying, visit

go to Review Round-Up and click at “BLKS”

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