Highly Recommended **** Court Theatre’s “Blues for an Alabama Sky” is a gripping play about complicated people doing what they have to do to survive. According to playwright Pearl Cleage, the Harlem Renaissance was a period of tremendous creative accomplishment for many black artists. The Stock Market crash dried up the money flowing to creative work, crushing hopes and bringing fear to many. “Blues for an Alabama Sky” is a kind of a microcosm of the hopes and fears of that time and place, while some of its themes – intolerance, homophobia and anti-abortion – are pulled out of today’s headlines. 4 Spotlights.
Angel (Toya Turner) is a force of nature. She’s used to doing whatever she needs to do to survive. She’s also emotional and inclined to jealousy. When she found out her latest lover was cheating, instead of singing in his nightclub, she caused a scene, which got her fired and thrown out of his apartment – without her belongings – on the same night.
Her cousin Guy (Sean Parris) is an aspiring costume designer who dreams about moving to Paris to design for Josephine Baker. He’s promised Angel that she’ll go to Paris with him. Guy doesn’t care what the bullies in the neighborhood think about his clothes, he dresses as he pleases. As Guy walks a very drunken Angel home on that disastrous night, a stranger helps him.
Guy’s next door neighbor – and good friend – Delia (Celeste M. Cooper), is a social worker who is trying to get Margaret Sanger to establish one of her birth control clinics in Harlem. Delia is shy, awkward and not very assertive until she gets fired up. When Delia’s aunt sent her a beautiful, sexy pink dress, Angel appropriated it without a word of thanks.
Another one of Guy’s friends, Sam (James Vincent Meredith), is a doctor in the neighborhood who seems to be delivering babies every night. After Delia persuades him to help her write her speech for Margaret Sanger, Sam and Delia get closer.
One day, Leland (Geno Walker), the man who helped Guy with Angel stops in. He’s visiting from Alabama and interested in Angel because she looks like his wife who died in childbirth. He plies her with gifts, even though he doesn’t approve of her lifestyle, her family or her friends. Angel wants another meal ticket so she tries to become someone else. Her tragedy is that she never really learns, making the same mistake over and over again.
Kudos to Linda Buchanan for the gorgeous set. Wallpaper, hard wood floors, gorgeous woodwork, even the transoms over the doors, are totally art deco. The furniture is all perfect for the period, right down to the Tiffany-style lampshade and the treadle sewing machine.
“Blues for an Alabama Sky” is part of the Harlem Renaissance Celebration in Hyde Park for which Court Theatre is partnering with University of Chicago scholars, musical performers, local schools, arts organizations and film centers to rediscover the Harlem Renaissance. For more information, visit www.harleminhydepark.com.
“Blues for an Alabama Sky” runs through February 12th at the Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis Ave., Chicago
Running time is 2 hours, 50 minutes, with an intermission.
Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 pm
Fridays at 8:00 pm
Saturdays at 3:00 and 8:00 pm
Sundays at 2:30 and 7:30 pm.
Tickets range from $48-$68. call 773-753-4472 or online www.CourtTheatre.org
Parking is free in the garage next door to the Court – take a ticket to enter but the gate stays up for 30 minutes after the performance.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Blues For an Alabama Sky”