Though you’ve been welcomed to “Ricky’s Place” at least five times by warm smiling ushers who are also urging you to bring a drink into the theater, when title man Ricky takes to the stage it’s still a bit of a startle.
Seeming to start in a vibrating place below perceptible range—much like an orchestra’s bass section in some symphonies—his voice at first seems to emerge more than sing. Every one of Stone’s features seems born for a caricaturist’s jollies—from the way his shoes make his feet seem snow-shoe sized, to his long fingers on large flying hands, to his round eyes that seem ever ready to pop into smiles. For a first instant in his dancing entrance he seems to be doing the funky chicken- but then you realize that all those extra ways he has to articulate joints most mere mortals don’t have make this more a purely Rick Stone signature.
From this writer’s view- just about everything about Stone is a one-off. He is a marvel!
Pure Rick Stone is what is offered in this production written by his life-long friend and driving force of Black Ensemble Theater, Jackie Taylor. Stone is helped along by four standout musicians and six other singers oozing with vocal range and attitude. We hear 33 songs—mostly blues, some not pure to the genre—but all giving the vocalists here a chance to charm – and they do. Every character also has a story line presented concisely— that’s the value-add of this play beyond going to a place like Kingston Mines.
Not Your Typical Black Ensemble Theater Biopic
This isn’t the usual Black Ensemble Theater biopic. This is a window on a culture born in Cabrini Green back in the day, when music—blues in particular-- sowed friendships and community bonds that sustained then and now. There are the aphorisms on how to live life best that seem to be a staple of Taylor scripts and guaranteed to rouse audience shout outs of approval.
This is a top pick for Blues music enthusiasts and lovers of the Black Ensemble Theater you-are-part-of-the-family approach to entertaining, which this writer always finds especially endearing.
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.
Written and Directed by Black Ensemble Theater Founder and CEO Jackie Taylor
Featuring: Rick Stone, Dwight Neal, Theo Huff, Rhonda Preston, Cynthia Carter, Kelvin Davis, and Lamont ‘Harmonica Man’ Harris..
Creative Team: Daryl Brooks (Production Manager), Denise Karczewski (lighting), David Samba (sound), Kylah Frye (Choreography), Jackie Taylor (costumes), and Evelyn Danner (Wardrobe Assistant).
Musicians: Robert Reddrick (drums) Mark Miller (base), Gary Baker (guitar) and Adam Sherrod (piano).
Thru September 23, 2018
Fridays: 8:00 pm
Saturdays: 3:00 pm and 8:00 pm
Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center
4450 North Clark Street
$55+ (student, senior and other discounts available)
Buy tickets online at the Black Ensemble Theater website.
Photos: Alan Davis
Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago
About the Author: Amy Munice
Amy Munice is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Publisher of Picture This Post. She covers books, dance, film, theater, music, museums and travel. Prior to founding Picture This Post, Amy was a freelance writer and global PR specialist for decades—writing and ghostwriting thousands of articles and promotional communications on a wide range of technical and not-so-technical topics.
Amy hopes the magazine’s click-a-picture-to-read-a-vivid-account format will nourish those ever hunting for under-discovered cultural treasures. She especially loves writing articles about travel finds, showcasing works by cultural warriors of a progressive bent, and shining a light on bold, creative strokes by fledgling artists in all genres.