“The social wheel is oiled by debt.”
In 1830s Louisiana, cunning rogue and recently freed slave, Rutherford Calhoun (Michael Morrow) is forced into a choice between marriage, indentured servitude to gangsters and stowing away aboard a ship bound for the high seas. His choice sends us on a decidedly different sort of swashbuckling adventure.
Lifeline Theatre Officiates A Marriage of Tradition and Innovation
Fog hangs in the air above a massive, detailed model of a sailing ship made of aged wood, metal and ropes which will serve as the multi-functional set while projections of an animated seascape illuminate the floor and back wall. The room temperature is low and - perhaps because the staff has anticipated the potential discomfort of guests - the back of each chair is draped with a blanket.
“Your judgement of character is worse than your cookin’!”
Morrow’s Calhoun, alternates between dialogue with other characters in the scene and direct address to the audience throughout the play. Every other actor in this crackerjack ensemble plays two or more roles. You too might find intriguing story insights contained within the choices of who plays who else in this tale of subjugation, lust, coming-of-age, betrayal, and redemption in the antebellum south.
A Tremendous Feat of Coordination at Every Level
Songs are sung a capella from behind the audience as well as behind and beneath the set, creating an organic kind of surround-sound. Many components of the set are functional; sails unfurl while characters tie off ropes and swing from the boom. Props and costumes are replete with minute detail. You too might find the fights and various other stunts to be visceral and acrobatic.
It is the opinion of this particular reviewer that on the whole, despite a rather abrupt and melodramatic conclusion, MIDDLE PASSAGE is a masterfully executed, spellbinding piece of theatre that is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for all audiences, particularly those who enjoy their high adventure with a social conscience.
Editor’s Note and Full Disclosure: The author of this review, a Chicago filmmaker, discovered, upon arrival in the theater, that he had worked previously with a member of this cast in one of his films. Picture This Post policy is to do such disclosures, but we do not prohibit or in any way discourage our many writers who themselves are theater, film, dance, music etc. professionals to steer clear of works where they know cast members.
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.
Patrick Blashill (Captain Falcon/Ensemble), Andrés Enriquez (Peter Cringle/Ensemble), Christopher Hainsworth (Josiah Squibb/Ensemble); with guest artists Shelby Lynn Bias (Isadora/Ensemble), Hunter Bryant (Jackson/Ensemble), Demetra Dee (Baleka/Ensemble), LaQuin Groves (Santos/Ensemble), Robert Hines III (Papa Zerinque/Ensemble), Michael Morrow (Rutherford Calhoun), Jill Oliver (Tom/Ensemble), & David Stobbe (McGaffin/Ensemble); with understudies Andrew Bosworth, Carter Caldwell, Whitney Dottery, Gregory J. Fields, Shole Milos & Noah Thomas.
Alan Donahue (Scenic Designer), Ilesa Duncan (Director/Co-adaptor), Elise Kauzlaric (Dialect Coach), Maren Robinson (Dramaturg); with guest artists David Barr III (Co-adaptor), Barry Bennett (Sound Designer), Becky Bishop (Stage Manager), Kyle Bricker (Asst. Stage Manager), Simean Carpenter (Lighting Designer), Jennifer McClendon (Production Manager), Anna Wooden (Costume Designer), Sam Moryoussef (Master Electrician), Harrison Ornelas (Technical Director), R&D Choreography (Violence Designers), Nicole Clark Springer (Choreographer), & Shawn Wallace (Composer/Music Director).
Thru April 5, 2020
Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays at 4 and 8 p.m. and
Sundays at 4 p.m.
Running Time: 2 hours, with one intermission
6912 N. Glenwood Ave.
About the Author:
Spence Warren is a Filmmaker, a Film Worker, A Musician, A Puppet Maker and - apparently - an occasional reviewer. He hopes to offer people - particularly those who love story in all its forms - valuable insight and perspective.