“First came the bombs…
So begins playwright C.A. Johnson’s set up of her post-apocalyptic tale of life in what seems like a very temporary lull of low intensity warfare over resources. These words come from a young boy, Kalil, played by 12-year old Chicago native Saniyah As-Salaam.
Kalil is now the charge of his two adopted mothers—one White, Greta (played by Laura Resinger) and one Black, Samira (played by Tracie Taylor). These three have cobbled together a family. There is much love, there is parenting, there is child’s play – but there isn’t much else, as the bare bones set seems to underline (Scenic Designer Evan Frank; Properties Design Amanda Barth). The scarcest commodity—key to how the story unfolds—is the water that they need in order to live.
Strawdog Theatre Tells Story of Racism Then and Now
Racism is not just a thread that draws us to this world from our present day, but rather the stranglehold rope. Multiply today’s disparities in life expectancy between Black and White exponentially— as C.A. Johnson’s imagination seems to do— and you live in this race-means-everything world. The best of humanity makes very fleeting cameo appearances, in a script ostinato of sorts, spoken by a few of the story’s characters (to paraphrase)—“..nobody doesn’t deserve to eat..”
The king of this small turf, Terrance (played by Gregory J. Fields), was once Samira’s husband. He is readying his speech for the ironically named Peace Day, but dogged by his past. Superbly cast, in this writer’s view, Fields ably melds the man-in-charge with man-at-sea that is the character C.A. Johnson has drawn. His two competitive lieutenants—his brother Bankhead (Johnard Washington) and Coolie (Tamarus Harvell)—similarly give performances that feel real.
You too may watch the testosterone-soaked exchanges of these male characters and feel a bit of time capsule whiplash. Are they really so different from a gang from the Projects in the here and now? And just how plausible or implausible are all the dynamics of life in the midst of extreme scarcity that this dramatic story tries to capture? Expect to ruminate on such questions as you leave the theater.
If you like scripts that jostle these types of thoughts, THIRST might be a top pick for your time. In this writer’s view, the production overall, despite a few top-notch performances such as Fields’, doesn’t add much to the script per se. Perhaps opening night jitters were more at work, and time will smooth out the performances as the run continues.
If you are looking for a light-hearted escape via theater, this is not your show. If a thinking woman’s Apocalypse Now sounds like your cup of tea, THIRST is a top pick.
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
Saniyah As-Salaam (Kalil), Gregory J. Fields (Terrance), Tamarus Harvell (Coolie), Laura Resinger (Greta), Tracie Taylor (Samira) and Johnard Washington (Bankhead).
Evan Frank (scenic design), Jos N. Banks (costume design), Adrienne Miikelle (lighting design), Heath Hays* (sound designer), Amanda Barth (props designer), Sam Hubbard* (intimacy and violence design, Jason Fleece (dialect coach), Angela Forshee and Will Pettway (assistant directors), Karissa Murrell Myers (casting director), Paul Cook (production
manager), Evan Sposato (technical director), Benjamin Carne (master electrician), Jean E. Compton (stage manager) and Collin Sparks (assistant stage manager).
Through February 15, 2020
Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30 pm
Sundays at 4 pm.
1802 W. Berenice Ave.