Thursday October 19th 2017

“Not About Nightingales”

Somewhat Recommended ** It seems that a “lost” manuscript, written by Tennessee Williams, back in 1928, has been found. It is a play about the prison system back in that period and according to the press notes, not a topic that the world was ready for, so “Not About Nightingales” was never produced (or seen). The inmates in the prison were of various ethnicities and homosexuals, so it stayed off “the boards” until 1998 when the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain put it on. In 1999, it opened on Broadway, receiving six Tony Nominations. I am sure that this fact was one in Raven Theatre Company deciding to bring this play to their stage. Please understand that my rating is based on the entire project as a whole entertainment, not the individual parts of same. The years have flown by and the subject matter has been done many times over, so despite the sharpness of Williams, I found that this particular work of his might have been better off left where it was found.

Directed by Michael Menendian on a set that attempts to get all the different sets needed in the East Stage Theatre (Ray Toler), the play moves well and is very well acted. In fact, the solid cast in this play deserves a stronger script with which to work. The story is about  a crooked warden (perfectly handled by Chicago favorite Chuck Spencer) who does what he wants when he wants to, answering to no one . The prisoners, an assortment of neer-do-wells, of all races, creeds and preferences, under the guidance of their ipso-facto leader Butch (deftly handled by Joshua J. Volkers) have decided that they have had enough and are going to stage a hunger strike. They feel that this will draw the attention of the powers above and that the prison will be looked at by them.

Another side story is that of the warden’s new hire, Eva Crane (Sophia Menendian), as a secretary. She is desperate for this position, and despite fearing the warden, takes the job. There is a “trustee” ( note- these are prisoners who are trusted and relied on to be aides to management in hopes that they will get special perks) Jim ( a powerful performance by Brandon Greenhouse) who awaits his parole and finds himself falling in love with Eva. As it turns out, she shares these feelings and when the prison becomes a very dark place with tyrannical deeds being done by the Warden to the prisoners, we see what can happen.

As always, I prefer not to give away more than needed, so as to not spoil the experience for those of you who will see the play, so let me just state the following. The entire cast is solid. Even the smallest of roles does a fine job. Raven Theatre has been one of my favorites for years and I know they felt good about bringing this lost play to the city of Chicago. Those of us who love the works and words of Tennessee Williams , have to understand that this was written six years before he enjoyed the success of “The Glass menagerie”. Perhaps, if he had waited to do the manuscript, it would have been stronger and better written. The ensemble members of this cast are as follows: Jon Beal, Luke Daigle, Ralph Diaz, Rudy Galvan, Matthew Garry,Tamarus Harvall, Juwan Lockett, Kevin Patterson and Joann Montemurro. Some of these cast members played multiple roles, and did them all with style.

On the tech side, besides the set which was a great undertaking in such a small space, the lighting ( Diane D. Fairchild), sound (Heath Hays), costumes (Alaina Moore) and props (John Buranosky) were very realistic and the choreography (Breon Arzell) and fight director (David Wooley) did a great job. Again, I am not sold on the script and felt that there were some flaws (example- would a guard take a gun into a cell alone? Or into a holding area?) I am not sure if that is directorial or the script, but an area that can be fixed (and should be).I would be interested to hear from you as to your reactions and feelings about “Not About Nightingales” which will continue at The Raven Theatre located at  6157 N. Clark Street (at Granville) thru June 4th with performances as follows:

Thursdays  7:30 p.m.

Fridays  7:30 p.m.

Saturdays  7:30 p.m.

Sundays  3 p.m.

Tickets are $46 ( discounts for seniors and students as well as military personnel) and can be purchased by calling 773-338-2177 or online at http://www.raventheatre.com(another special discount)

there is parking FREE in the lot next to the theater as well as street parking (meters of Granville are free after 6 p.m.)

Bus transportation is readily available.

Thursdays nights is UNDER 30 special  $13 per seat (subject to availability)

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Not About Nightingales”

 

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