Tuesday May 30th 2017

“Radio Golf”

August Wilson and his marvelous stories are highly regarded in the theater community. His “The Pittsburgh Cycle” is a ten play series depicting the African American experience throughout the 20th century. Each play takes on a different decade and deals with what was topical at the time. “Radio Golf” now on the stage at Raven Theatre takes us to the 1990’s and a time where redevelopment was taking place in our major cities. In this story, it is 1997 and Harmond Wilks ( a strong performance by Michael Pogue), a local successful realtor, is about to change the world for the African American population in Pittsburgh. He is running for mayor ( to be the first Black Mayor) and is redeveloping one of the poorest, shabbiest areas into a new multi million dollars complex with affordable housing and major stores. He is about to see his dreams come to realization. His wife, Mame ( solidly played by Demetria Thomas) has her eye on a government job as well and is helping Harmond with his campaign. His partner, Roosevelt Hicks ( deftly handled by Warren Levon) also aspires to live his life in a better world, a place where he can play golf anytime he wants and never worry about money.

While it seems that these people have it made and do not have any of the problems that the other African Americans of Pittsburgh have, their lives are about to change as they find out that one of the properties that is about to be demolished to make way for their project is being painted by an elder gentleman and then the fun begins. We learn a great deal about “The Hill” and its inhabitants in this solidly written play, well directed by Aaron Todd Douglas, who shows a genuine understanding of what Wilson was trying to bring to the people in this masterpiece. The old man, Joseph Barlow ( brilliantly handled by David Adams) just wants to stay in his home, a home that has been in his family for many years and make it available to his daughter. What we discover about how his home was obtained in order to clear the way for development changes the life of  Harmond Wilks and the people of “The Hill”. There is one other character in this solid production, Sterling Johnson ( a powerful performance by Antoine Pierre Whitfiled) , who lacks the education of  Wilks, but has more heart and soul and “street smarts” allowing him to get involved in the battle that comes from the situation. Wilson brings forth the concept that during this time many African Americans were “used” by the white money people s the government had funding available for minority businesses. In fact, that is where the title comes from, with Roosevelt becoming the “front man” in a radio station purchase at a great discount and willing to do even more. This is a play about loyalty, integrity, sacrifice and the ability to see things clearly even if it interferes with the search for the American Dream. Douglas and his cast take us down this road with great feeling and understanding and while the ending may not satisfy all who see it, it allows us to understand the visions and desires of each person in the story.

Raven Theatre has truly made great use of its stage area over the last few seasons and Andrei Onegin’s office set once again proves that even the lesser endowed troupes in Chicago come up with great tech people and support. Mary O’Dowd’s props are also very detailed and even though to many props are just “things” this is not true- for the actors and directors, props are essentials and to the audience, it allows them to see things clearly. To see the design for the new center adds much to the entire picture and the drawing of the changed proposal adds a lot more credibility to the change in tone and attitude of  young Harmond. Each season, I am impressed by what this ocmpany is able to do on their stage and with their budget.

“Radio Golf” will continue at The Raven Theatre located at 6157 N. Clark Street ( at Granville) through April 9th with performances as follows:

Thursday,Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.

Tickets are $30 ( another great value for theater of this quality) Seniors and students can save $5 and can be purchased by calling 773-338-2177 or online at www.raventheatre.com

There are limited free parking spaces in the lot adjacent to the theater and plenty of street parking ( some metered, some not) and of course the bus ( Clark #22) stops at the door. There ar esome restaurants nearby, one of which is located at 5374 N. Clark Street ( Big Jones) “coastal southern cooking”- try their grilled pulled chicken- wow!

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