Every year, it seems, Chicago has more World Premiere productions in its theaters. Part of this is the reputation our audiences have with producers and part of this has to be the wonderful talent that calls Chicago “home”! The Court Theatre located on the campus of The University of Chicago, a highly respected and intellectual University, has its share of these productions, and on their stage now, is the World Premiere of “Invisible Man” adapted for the stage by Oren Jacoby, based on the novel by Ralph Ellison. The title could be a bit misleading, causing one to think this to be a science fiction story about some potion that causes a person to be invisible- it is not! Rather it is a story about the search for identity. While it was written many years ago ( the 1940’s- original novel), the struggles that took place then, for many still exist. In today’s’ world, it is not just the African Americans who are invisible to the White population, but the Hispanics and Asians as well, so the struggles continue over 60 years later.
“Invisible Man” under the skillful direction of Christopher McElroen and some marvelous choreography by Tammy Mader on a simple, but workable set by Troy Hourie truly have created a show that keeps your attention and focus for the entire three acts ( over three hours in total), not an easy task! The costumes by Jaqueline Firkins and lighting by John Culbert along with the sound by Josh Horvath and wonderful projections by Alex Koch are the “iceing on the cake”, but I must say, it is the powerful cast that trule keeps our attention during this very long play.
Led by Teagle F. Bougere,who is on the stage almost the entire play, serving as Invisible Man, telling his story of leaving the south and his Black University to head north to Harlem for a job which later turns out to be a new life in the political arena and then later to become “invisible”. We watch this strong willed boy grow into a man with ideals. His journey was a defining one in that he begins to see that for the most part, people just take their identities for granted- they are who they are, but along this journey, we find that not to be true. Leading him along the path in many roles are Lance Stuart Baker,Chris Boykin, Kenn E. Head,Bill McGough,Paul Oakley Stovall, A.C. Smith,Juilia Watt,Kimm Beavers and Tracey N. Bonner. A solid cast of players who bring special meaning to each of the characters they play. I was very impressed with them not doing caricatures, but realistic people of the time. Far to often, we see these types of shows fall into the stereotypes that have been around for years- they do not!
In speaking with others, during the intermissions, it appeared that some were concerned about why this man was chosen to speak for his people and if the Whites that had picked him out did so in order to use him for their own purposes, or were they truly wanting to change the relationship between the races. This could have been made a bit clearer. I saw it as the political manipulation of these men of Harlem, using this bright and high spirited man to further their ambitions. Let me know how you saw it.
This is a well told story, and while three hours might be a bit long, I will say that the time moves quickly and never seems a drag. Thank the lord for that. A boring 3 hour play might feel like an eternity, “Invisible Man” feels as if was just right. The production will continue through February 19th at the very intimate Court Theatre located at 5535 S. Ellis Avenue with plenty of free enclosed parking, The performance schedule is as follows:
Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.,Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7:30 p.m. Matinees are Saturday at 3 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets are $40-$60 and can be purchased at the box office, by phone at 773-753-4472 or online at www.CourtTheatre.org
Senior and studnet discounts are available. There are some special events that tie into this production. To learn more, visit www.CourtTheatre.org