First Floor Theater Presents SUGAR IN OUR WOUNDS Review – Gay Slave Love Story

First Floor Theater Presents SUGAR IN OUR WOUNDS Review – Queer- themed Love Story set in a plantation during the Civil War

Pillars, bed frames and stools are decorated with lumber pieces of varying sizes. They seem to be mindfully placed for a haphazard, slipshod feel.  This simple set (Scenic Design: Joy Ahn) coupled with lighting effects (Lighting Design: Eric Watkins) allows us to imagine a slave cabin, and a nearby tree.  We see this tree more from the imagination of the characters in this story.  It is so monumental in size, it reaches to heaven.  It also, like many Southern plantations of the Civil War era, bears strange fruit.

First Floor Theater SUGAR IN OUR WOUNDS
(left to right) Renee Lockett and Michael Turrentine

We meet sweet James (Michael Turrentine) as he awaits his flirtatious plantation madam Isabel (Grainne Ortlieb).  She is tutoring James in how to read, on the sly.  Her cruelty comes out full-tilt on Mattie (Ashley Crowe), whom we learn is her half-sister.  When Isabel leaves, it is elder Aunt Mama (Renee Lockett) who runs the show, keeping all in line, so that they can live.  The arrival of a new slave, Henry (Londen Shannon) sets their world upside down.  James discovers he is gay.  Mattie discovers sex too.  Aunt Mama sees beneath the surface happenings, and does her level best to stave off the inevitable tragedy of another lynching—or two.

First Floor Theater Chooses Script with Intriguing Topic

Sugar in Our Wounds takes on a topic-- gay life in slavery-- that is intriguing and not often broached, if at all. In this writer’s view, this is a play primarily for those who like all things queer-themed.    In this play, dialogue that is supposed to be of the Civil War era  includes modern slang like “blow me away”, “funky”, “I’m good”, “weird shit” and similar. If you, like this writer, recoil at anachronistic dialogue and plot lines, it’s probably best to steer clear of this production.

It's noteworthy, however, that despite this script’s challenges, the cast does a standout job.



Playwright: Donja R. Love

Director: Company Member Mikael Burke


Ashley Crowe (Mattie), Renee Lockett (Aunt Mama), Grainne Ortlieb (Isabel), Londen Shannon (Henry) and Michael Turrentine (James).


Joy Ahn (scenic design), Madeleine Rose Byrne (costume design), Eric Watkins (lighting design), Sam Clapp (sound design), Sana Selemon (dialect coach), Ian Maryfield (violence and intimacy design), Caitlin McCarthy and Cole von Glahn (co-production management), Emma Franklin (stage manager), Julia Toney (production stage manager) and Anastar Alvarez (assistant stage manager).  


Though November 23, 2019
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm.
Sundays at 3 pm.


The Den Theatre (2B),
1331 N. Milwaukee Ave.



Check for Half-Price Deals from Hot Tix:

For full-priced tickets and ticket availability visit First Floor Theater website

Photos: Gracie Meier

Note: Picture This Post reviews are excerpted by Theatre in Chicago

Amy Munice

About the Author:

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.


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