Highly Recommended **** One of Chicago’s newest “hotspots” when it comes to dining out, the Randolph Street area, just west of Halsted, has some strong history for the city of Chicago. The story of Lucy Parsons, daughter of a slave and the widow of Albert Parsons, who on the last day of her life, revisits Haymarket Square (the aforementioned area) to retell the story of the unjust trial that followed, so that she can have the closure that she needs. This is the tale, or should I say, the FOLK tale we are shown in the World Premiere of “Haymarket:The Anarchist’s Songbook” now on the stage of the Edge Theater located at 5451 N. Broadway in Chicago. By the way, this is a new venue that is very comfortable for the audience, with room for one’s legs and seats placed in a fashion so that even a taller person in front of you will not hinder your view. Welcome to the Edgewater area, Edge Theater!
The play, with a book by Alex Higgin-Houser (who also write the lyrics) and music by David Kornfeld is being produced by Underscore Theatre Company ( a newer troupe that tells its stories through music) and based on what I saw tonight, I am pleased that they are doing what they do. This particular story, based on actual events in Chicago , illustrates the power struggle between anarchists and police and represents the first “Red Scare” in our fair city, which set the tone for the shaping of the 20th century. These anarchists faced down police brutality, income inequality, corrupt politicians, unfair media and if one looks at history, what they thought they had beaten, still exists today. Yes, in a different way, but just how different is different?
Bringing this historical series of events to us as a “folk tale” with music, makes it easier to follow and keeps the interest of the audience on a higher level. The cast of players assembled are all musicians as well as singers and actors. Director Elizabeth Margolius has brought some excellent talent to the production. The set (Kurtis Boetcher) is a multi level one with boxes that contain Chicago buildings and items as well as the musical instruments that each actor plays as needed. The lighting effects (Erik Berry) is superb and sets the mood from scene to scene. The sound (Aaron Stephenson) for the most part is excellent, but perhaps this company might consider adding mikes as needed in the future. There were a few places where the sounds of the instruments drowned out the words they were singing. Carolyn Cristofani’s costumes and Mealah Heidenreich’s props were the finishing touches to the technical part of the show.
The solid performances are what makes this production very special. Halle Bins, Summer Hofford, David Kaplinsky, Royen Kent, Khaki Pixley, Victoria Olivier, Tyler Merle Thompson, Mike Mazzocca, James Smart as Albert Parsons and LaKecia Harris as Lucy. All powerful performers who truly conveyed the story that Higgin-Houser and crew wanted to bring to the stage. As a “Folk Musical”, the songs are designed to tell the story and keep the flow in doing so. There are times that the audience is unsure if they should applaud for each song, as they do not want to stop the flow of said saga. On the other hand, some of the songs deserve the applause, so let your heart be your guide. I will tell you that the “Order of the Gallows” and “Hear The News” are spellbinding numbers that are repeated and will help to propel the story you are watching. This is history! This is history that happened here, in Chicago!
“Haymarket: The Anarchist’s Songbook” will continue at the Edge Theater located at 5451 N. Broadway through June 12th with performances as follows:
Saturdays 3 and 7:30 p.m.
Sundays 5 p.m.
MONDAYS at 7:30 p.m.
Added- June 2nd, Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
NO MONDAY on June 6th
Tickets range from $20-$25 open seating and can be ordered by calling 312-646-0975 or online at www.underscoretheatre.org
Running time 2 hours (with a ten minute intermission). Street parking (metered) is right in front of the building and public transportation is very accessible.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Haymarket :The Anarchist’s Songbook”.