Kokandy Productions’ Bonnie & Clyde is a fresh spin on systemic poverty, legendary crime and romantic love set to lively feel-good music. It begs the question, when is criminal activity ready for its spotlight on the stage set to upbeat song. With a book by Ivan Menchel, music by Frank Wildhorn and lyrics by Don Black, this production finds the right moment.
No Spoiler Alert Required
From the start, Bonnie Parker was her own best publicist, leaving behind the poem “Suicide Sal” in her jail cell. Since then, the couple’s hard scrabble life has been appropriated in film, books and song, making them one of history’s most examined criminal couples. It is fitting the play opens with their execution-style death by automatic weapon.
This Bonnie and Clyde suggests romance and attraction fueled their mutual aspirations to success at all costs — never mind running afoul of the law. The heart-rending duets between actors Max DeTogne (Clyde) and Desiree Gonzalez (Bonnie) include passion and touch. The audience sees they are a bit stuck in a socio-economic strata that will thwart them in a nation suffering a profound depression.
Clyde’s rockabilly anthems provide a look into a life marred by three years of living under a bridge. He laments he and his brother Buck were in trouble with the law from the start and had not found a way to redemption. The Reverend, played by effervescent actor Nathan Carroll, has two rousing gospel numbers with the full chorus backing him. He espouses the way out for the class of poor folk stuck in financially destitute West Dallas.
Buck’s wife Blanch, played by the velvet-voiced Missy Wise, has two haunting ballads that underscore her longing for her husband’s atonement so they can enjoy a life of unspoiled domesticity. Ted the local sheriff, played by Patrick Tierney has a beautiful lament for the yellow-cheeked Bonnie Parker who has captured his heart. He must face down his nostalgia when he’s recruited for the final hunt of the duo.
Kokandy Productions — More Choreography Please
For this reviewer, the choreography seemed spare and a tad stiff. The chorus moving in lock-step during a gospel chorus is one of the few elegant turns for this group of agile actors. Watching entrances and exits with athletic prowess invited a sense there is talent in these lithe actors untapped.
Kokandy Productions’ Bonnie and Clyde will not disappoint musical theater lovers. It’s clear-eyed look at poverty and crime are precious reminders that societies lacking opportunity spawn suffering. It’s not a lesson musical, though. This celebration of music is a tribute to a couple who loved, lived and died together in a way that continues to echo their names — now with more joy than they ever might have hoped for.
August 27-October 15, 2017
Thursday-Saturday @ 8PM
Sunday matinees @ 3:00PM
1229 W. Belmont Ave.
or in person at the Theater Wit Box Office
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Note: an excerpt of this appears in Theatre in Chicago.
About the Author:
Stephen B. Starr is Principal of Stephen B. Starr Design, Inc., a design and communication consultancy in Evanston, IL. Stephen is a former president of the Chicago Creative Coalition, organizer for the Chicago Weekly Sitting Meditation Group and founder and organizer of the Chicago Web Professionals. Stephen is nurtured creatively by the fine art of story-telling — especially in the theater. As a college journalism major, he has since followed the siren’s call of poetry and short story writing in his free time. He is interested in the wisdom of indigenous spiritual traditions and seeks inspiration in natural settings by gardening, camping, hiking and biking.