Chain link fence dangles overhead entwining a street lamp. In a masterstroke Director Ron OJ Parson positions his talented cast in long still pensive poses as the light comes on- one in a window, one behind a screen door, one sitting alone etc.
It is an image you too may come back to at the play’s close—a visual metaphor of sorts for the very solo journey each character is on trying to process what has gone down in their personal life, even before the grand events unroll on this stage. Then, a loud noise obliterates the visual. (It’s not exactly clear what it I,s and later we guess it might be the sound a small boy hears from inside a dryer.)
That boy who was once locked in a whirling dryer as his menacing cousin watched is now the grown Terry Kilbourn (Geno Walker), who scoots about on a bicycle that might be better suited for someone much smaller, and who has a seemingly permanent smile on his face. It’s the look of someone who is “slow”, as his ever doting grandmother Brenda Cameron (Linda Bright Clay) puts it.
Geno Walker’s nuanced performance is so spot on that you should prepare to be jolted when his real person emerges for the curtain bow. This writer was immediately reminded of Lenny in Mice and Men—and especially of John Malkovich’s performance in that role.
If you don’t read the program notes prior, you might actually find yourself having to reach to follow the drama of the grand events at its core—the real-life story told by two Milwaukee Sentinel reporters who exposed a botched sting job by ATF agents. These agents (Stephen Walker as Dex Farwell, Jay Worthington as Ike Jeno and Anji White as Regina “G” Whitnall) seem like criminals out to manipulate Terry in ways that make you wince.
Terry’s “woman” Rochelle (played by Tiffany Addison) gets hip to this, as does Terry’s troubled cousin Dontre Cameron (Al’Jaleel McGhee), though they play out their suspicions in different ways.
Part of Timeline Theatre Project to Nurture Playwrights
In reading the program notes we learn that the reach we did to follow the story was a bit intentional by playwright Brett Neveu, who wanted us to instead focus on the real people being pushed about by the larger forces at work. Unlike most of what we see on the stage, the relationships between the characters are more muddied and truer-to-life than typically found on a stage. So much history between Brenda and her grandson Dontre, that every sentence they utter to each other seems to unveil another layer of a back story! And, how does a woman who is not “slow” come to be involved with a man who is- and how does that work? And more.. .
For this reviewer, it is the interpersonal stories in this script that make it engaging ,more than the headline story per se that prompted the playwright’s pen.
Superb performances make these characters alive and worth your time to get to know them.
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.
Thru July 1, 2018
Tuesday (6/19 only), Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
Friday at 8 p.m.;
Saturday at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. (except no performance 5/5 at 4 p.m.);
Sunday at 2 p.m. (except no performance 6/24).
615 West Wellington
$40+ (with discounts for seniors, military and first responders)
Purchase tickets at the Timeline Theatre Website or call the Box Office at (773) 281-8463 x6.