Tuesday February 20th 2018

“My Kind of Town”

When one sees the title of the new production, The World Premiere of “My Kind of Town”, they will know it is about Chicago, but don’t expect to hear the dulcet tones of crooner Frank Sinatra. This stunning new play written by by John Conroy and sharply directed by Nick Bowling takes us back in time to a period between1980 and 1998 as we learn more about the police torture scandal that continues to plague Chicago, even years later. This story is about one particular man Otha Jeffries ( brilliantly played by Charles Gardner) and his fight for justice. But even before we meet this man and the story begins to unravel, we are welcomed by a tv screen with a photo-journal of our city narrated by none other than Rick Kogan ( WGN Radio/Tribune feature writer)- so we know it is pure Chicago.

The set(Brian Sidney Bembridge,U.S.A.) is unique ( as are most of the sets at TimeLine) in that with its levels it can be many locations with very little added. It is a police station, many different kitchens, an interrogation room, a conference room and a court of law as well as a prison cell and a fire escape. Bembridge has designed a set that fits all these and never leaves us questioning where we are. Bowlings’ direction has these rooms/areas being used by different people as different areas as we go from scene to scene and the smoothness of the transitions adds to the mystic of the production.

Otha is on death row for the murder of three people, which he claims he did not commit. He has been in jail for many years and now an attorney, Robert Morales ( deftly handled by Derek Garza) comes to advise him that he is going to see if he can get a new trial, but first they must have a hearing, as rumors of torture to prisoners have been exploding in the city. Otha, who is sure that the system will beat him and he will die. What Conroy does is explore the events that took place, intertwining the officers who made the arrest and questioned him ( Dan Breen ( a strong character played by David Parkes) and George Dawson (the always reliable A.C. Smith) who was more background at the south side station house.

We learn through Otha’s retelling of the events of that night a great deal about not only these officers, but the prosecutor ( Maggie Kettering) and Otha’s parents, Rita ( as always, a powerful performance by Ora Jones) and estranged father Albert, a police officer himself ( Trinity P. Murdock). as we learn of the night in question and watch how the events change the lives of all the parties concerned. This is a strong drama that takes the scandals we have read about and heard on the news to a different level, live, on the stage, it seems more real and is somewhat more human, as is the young man who has been tortured and awaits his death. His family has been destroyed emotionally and as the story progresses, we see the effects of these revelations on those who thought they were helping the people of Chicago.

One might call this a chance for people to examine the amazing history of what took place during these times and how some young mis-guided police officers, under the direction of their leader, tried to do what they felt would be best for the community- get the bad guys off the street. What “My Kind Of Town ” does is allow the audience to get an in depth look at what we only know on the surface by bringing it to life; the situation and the people and of great importance to look at today’s culture in regards to law and order.

In the final scenes of the story, we are shocked to learn that our young Otha, may or may not be guilty of the crime accused of. In fact, we never really know for sure, but the point of the story is not if he did or did not light the fire that caused three people to die, but rather, did the police, for whatever reason, have the right to do what they did to him. Did his torture and ultimate confession save anyone else from being harmed? Did what they did do any good for anyone at all? In fact, many lives were destroyed or disrupted or changed because of the events on that particular night and as we have learned over the years, many an innocent man endured the torture that is shown in this production, for no reason at all.

This is a finely tuned cast bringing these characters to life. In addition to the above mentioned, Danica Monroe as Ann Breen, and Carolyn Hoerdemann as her sister. Gardner is a standout in his portrayal of Otha with great energy, but the entire cast makes this production one that should be seen! I will say that the storyline and the language may not be suitable for younger children, but high schoolers ( mature) will learn a great deal form the words of Conroy. The costumes by Alex Wren Meadows,, Nic Jones’ lighting,original music ( perfect in every way) and sound by Mikhail Fiksel,U.S.A. and the projections by Mike Tutaj alone with the vast array of props handled by D.J. Reed are just the icing on a cake that is perfection. If you love history, if you love mystery, if you love cop stories, you will love this show. I know that I did!

“My Kind Of Town” will continue at TimeLine Theatre located at  615 Wellington ( just west of Broadway) through July 29th with performances as follows:

Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m.,Saturdays at 4 and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. ( no performance on June 24th)

To purchase tickets call TimeLine at 773-281-8463 or visit www.timelinetheatre.com

Tickets range from $32-$42 and students receive $10 off ( with valid ID).

TimeLine has post show discussions following shows on 5/16,5/20,5/24,5/27,6/6,6/14.6/17,6/20,6/28 and 7/8.

On Sunday, June 10th, the Sunday Scholars Series there will be a one hour panel discussion with experts on the themes and issues and on 7/1 another with company members.

to learn more, visit www.timelinetheatre.com

Parking for the theater, at a discount is available at the LAZ parking lot, 3012 N. Broadway ($62.5 for 3-5 hours); Standard Parking at Broadway Center , 2846 N. Broadway is available ( with validation) for $8 up to 6 hours. There is also some limited free street parking ( watch the signs) and of course some metered. Running time 2 hours 10 minutes ( with one intermission)


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