Everyone who raved about the award-winning film, “The Butler” will find the newest production, currently on the stage in the upstairs Studio 4, at The Greenhouse Theater Center, “looking Over The President’s Shoulder” 90 minutes of pure “ART”! Written by James Still and directed by Timothy Douglas, this one man show is magical as we learn about Alonzo Fields (played to perfection by Manny Buckley) who served under Presidents Hoover, Roosevelt and Truman as well as a time with “Ike” in his 21 years at The White House.
Fields, came from Indiana, the grandson of a freed slave ,who wanted nothing more than to be an “artist” (Opera was his love) found himself working in the service of presidents and dignitaries, instead. Through the eyes of the writer and the actor, we get to “peek through the keyhole of American History”, learning a great deal about the men who ran our country and their wives, who some say, were responsible for many of the customs and suggestions of their mates.
While the play is done very simply on a set designed by Brian Sidney Bembridge , Mr. Buckley tells us the story from the time he is called to the White House and all of the details of his years and growth in his position as Chief Butler. The story is factual and in some ways will come across as similar to the story told in “The Butler”, but in a unique and very personal way. He is speaking to us and one gets the feeling that he wants us to know that in spite of this not being his dream, he accepted what he did as a different type of art form. The stage is open and we are in what is probably the pantry. The walls are lined with special shelving that allows each plate and platter to have its own space. Amanda Herrmann’s props are absolutely amazing and the detail that went into the table that is set on the other side of the wall is one that I found breathtaking. We do not even realize the artistry of this part of the set until the end of the production when the lighting (Mike Durst) and the set take center stage, while Mr. Buckley talks about his special talents.
It is always a bit harder to describe the action of a one person show, as they are more or less in charge of our evening. The story is one that holds the interest of the audience. There are some historical notes dealing with ward our country was involved in and presidents who made changes in our history. While we only hear the voice of one man ( our narrator, so to speak), we get a glimpse into those he served and even some of the others he worked with. This is a spellbinding story that creates a thirst for more knowledge about the African Americans who were responsible for the day to day operations of our President’s lives but were somehow overlooked until years later.
This is probably the shortest 90 minutes of theater you will ever witness. It moves with great fluidity and Mr. Buckley captures the heart and soul of this man he is bringing to life. Many of us are unaware of those who did these jobs and how they became who they were. We have no idea as to the importance these people played in the day to lives of our Presidents and their families. As with “The Butler”, now you will know just a little more of our history.
American Blues Theater Company is celebrating 30 years of bringing quality theater to Chicago. There are 38 members in this company of Equity performers, who have won many awards and nominations. They are also very interested in the community and local service agencies. They illuminate the American ideas of freedom, equality and opportunity in the plays produced and communities served.
“Looking Over The President’s Shoulder” will continue through March 6th with performances as follows:
Fridays 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays 7:30 p.m.
2/27 and 3/5 also 3 p.m.
Sundays 2:30 p.m.
Tickets range from $29-$39 ( a value for theater of this quality) with student discounts of $10 and Seniors, $5 off
Open seating- to reserves your opportunity to see this special show, call 773-404-7336 or online www.AmericanBluesTheater.com
The Greenhouse Theater Center is located at 2257 N. Lincoln Avenue. There is street parking (metered) and the old Children’s Memorial Hospital Garage, one block North of the theater has limited free spaces as well.
On Sundays, 2/14 – 2/28 there will be post show events/discussions
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Looking Over The President’s Shoulder”.