The world premiere of Tilikum, presented by Sideshow Theatre Company is a multi-sensory exploration of captivity. Inspired by the infamous Sea World whale--whose violent antics you may have seen in the documentary, Black Fish--this play by Kristiana Rae Colon features drumming, movement, and lyrical language that pulses with a political edge.
Three Actors Bring Tilikum to Life
Featuring a cast of just three actors and three drummers who stand in for other whales, Tilikum chronicles the story of the eponymous whale’s capture and captivity. Played by Gregory Geffrard, Tilikum is bold, brash, and angry. Izumi Inaba’s costuming helps to highlight Colon’s duality--she’s writing as much about incarcerated people of color as she is about killer whales--with Tilikum’s costume consisting of a pair of black pants and a white, sleeveless hoodie. Rounding out the cast are Matt Fletcher as The Owner and Sigrid Sutter as Dawn. While Fletcher’s Owner is almost comically antagonistic, Sutter’s dawn provides a warm, earnest performance as a woman whose dreams are becoming a reality.
Sideshow Theatre Offers Inventive, Theatrical Production
William Boles’ scenic design further heightens Colon’s themes of captivity by isolating Tilikum in a shallow area that suggests an empty swimming pool. Combined with Paul Deziel’s stunning projections and the music and choreography from Coco Elysses, Melissa F. DuPrey, and Noelle Simone respectively, Tilikum becomes a visual and aural feast for the senses. Deziel’s work, especially, combines elements which suggest myth and reality, seamlessly orienting the audience inside and outside Tilikum’s holding take.
Tilikum’s theatricality is executed in myriad ways, some of which were more successful than others for this reviewer. While the movement and drumming in Tilikum is conceptually exciting, as the play progressed it seemed as if director Lili-Anne Brown could have built or varied these elements a bit more. In this reviewer’s mind, some moments of Colon’s script sing more than others -- The Owner character seemed to lack the depth injected into Tilikum and Dawn’s storylines. Even so, this production offers theatregoers hungry for a unique and powerful experience a play whose political questions will certainly change the way you remember vacations from your childhood.
William Boles (scenic design)
Izumi Inaba (costume design)
Jared Gooding (lighting design)
Victoria Deiorio (sound design)
Amy Peters (properties design)
Paul Deziel (projections designer)
Coco Elysses (composer, music director)
Melissa F. DuPrey (composer, musician)
Joyce Liza Rada Lindsey (musician)
Noelle Simone (choreographer)
Isaac Gomez (dramaturg)
Chad Hain (technical director)
Benjamin W. Dawson and Ellen Willett (production managers)
Savannah Clements (stage manager)
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 review appears in Theatre in Chicago
Through July 29th
Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8pm
Sundays at 2:30pm
Victory Gardens Richard Christiansen Theater
2433 N. Lincoln Ave.
Tickets are currently available at website, by calling 773.871.3000, or in person at the Victory Gardens box office.
Sideshow Theatre is offering complimentary tickets to formerly incarcerated youth ages 25 and under. To reserve a ticket (limit one per person), email email@example.com with the subject line “Youth Ticket” and include the performance date and time, first name, last name, and phone number. Companion tickets are available at half price.
Photos by Jonathan L. Green
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