Tuesday October 25th 2016

“Unspeakable” review by Carol Moore

UNSPEAKABLE_James-Murray-Jackson-Jr__-Justin-Barbin-Photography-300x200Not Recommended  “Unspeakable”, the new “dramatic fantasia” about the life of Richard Pryor is not a good play. It is vulgar, profane (more uses of the ‘n’ word than I’ve ever heard) and not at all funny.  If it’s to go any further, it will need a lot of work.  Unfortunately, I will never get those two hours back.  1 Spotlight.

The first act is, as my friend Nancy remarked, like watching a pinball machine. I couldn’t see any rhyme or reason as the action was kind of all over the place.  In fact, I found myself zoning out at times.  I think many people in the audience took offense at the language too. It’s never a good thing when at least a quarter of the audience leaves at intermission.

Most of the actors played multiple parts. They seemed to change character frequently; usually without a costume change.  I had a hard time following the action, not to mention figuring out who they were.  Then there was this very strange woman with weird sunglasses and body paint – a character or a symbol?

The decibel level was almost intolerable. The cast never spoke, they shouted – or shrieked.  The second act was marginally better than the first, in that there was less shouting and more actual emotion.  If you’re looking for some of Pryor’s famous stand-up comedy routines, you’ll be disappointed.  What passes for stand-up here is the ‘n’ word, repeated ad nauseum.  Another thing I found to be quite odd – a couple of times Pryor was introduced as Richard Cosby.  What is that about?


James Murray Jackson, Jr., who plays Richard Pryor, looks a lot like him and he has the voice down pat. According to the publicity blurbs, Jackson originated the role in the New York International Fringe Festival.  E. Faye Butler, who plays Mama, is also excellent – if a bit shrill – in the part.  Unfortunately, the material is just not there.

The cast includes Ronald L. Conner as Moody/Bucky and Taryn Reneau as Rat/Jessica. Chris Amos, Kierra Bunch and Ginneh Thomas play multiple parts.  The Ensemble includes Lamar N. Barnes, Ebony Joy and Akilah Perry.

“Unspeakable” runs through November 8th at Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut, Chicago.  Performances are Tuesday through Friday at 7:30 pm; Saturday at 2:00 and 8:00; Sundays at 2:00 and 7:30.  Running time is 2 hours, 10 minutes with an intermission.  Tickets range from $35-$79.  Parking is available at a discounted rate in the Water Tower Place garage.  FYI (800) 775-2000, www.broadwayinchicago.com or www.ticketmaster.com

To see what others are saying ( if you care to) visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Unspeakable”unspeakable1

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