A Chicago Anthology
Real accounts invite an honest, human look at Chicago’s violence
|Crime Scene: A Chicago Anthology|
Review by Joy Campbell
Chicago’s violence – historical and contemporary – is legendary, and the number of opinions on its causes and solutions seems as high as the body counts. Only one thing is certain: it continues.
Crime Scene: A Chicago Anthology takes a look at the complex nature of Chicago’s violence through an examination of the city’s explosive history of racism and abuse of power, the role of the media, and the use of nonfiction source materials such as interviews and articles to probe this daunting problem. As the show begins we are given a timeline, through projection and performance, of watershed moments in Chicago’s violent history: riots, segregation laws, labor battles. We see that bloody conflict is not a new fabric in the quilt that makes up the city. Through strong storytelling, multimedia and song, the cast weaves an intricate tale of loss, frustration, anger, and hopeful determination.
Under Anthony Moseley’s skilled direction, the honest performances by this astoundingly talented and unpretentious cast address the issue with integrity, respect, and an absence of melodrama. There is no attempt at pat diagnosis, easy answers, finger-pointing or preaching, and the range of responses – from frustration, to blame, to weariness – are presented without judgment. Three actual crimes are dramatized: In the mistaken-identity shooting of 12-year old Orlando Patterson (Shavac Prakash), we see the stupidity of the act, the pettiness of its cause, and the awful realization of its enormity by the teen (Eddie Jordan III) who commits the crime. Scott Baity, Jr. brings a youthful exuberance and innocence to the blustery sass of 17-year-old Joseph “Lil JoJo” Coleman, murdered over a gang beef fueled by social media. (In a particularly effective bit of staging, actual comments posted to Facebook in reaction to the crime are spoken by those paying their respects.) For the brutal baseball-bat beating of Stacy Jurich (Laura Korn) and Natasha McShane (Victoria Blade) by Heriberto Viramontes (Luis Crespo) in 2010, we see Natasha after the fact, stepping away from her crippled body in which she is trapped and unable to speak. She moves into the night of the incident a vivacious 23-year old in a powerful contrast between who she was and what violence has done to her.
Notable is that the views expressed aren’t drawn along racial lines; no one ethnicity has a corner on anger, frustration, opinion, or well-intentioned ignorance. Hope is seen in community workers Fr. David Kelly (Eamonn McDonagh), Ameena Matthews (Brittany Bradshaw), who simply talk about what they see, and what they see lacking (a system that supports, love). A Chicago cop (Lisandra Tena) points out that when it comes to crime, nobody has a monopoly (“In my job, everyone is a criminal.”) In a particularly excellent scene, Tena is astounding as she re-enacts a performance at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center Career Day that’s as entertaining in its skill as it is powerful in its substance.
Some cast members do outreach work as part of their craft; this, combined with the source material, translates into a sincere work that wins our trust and invites us to engage; the show’s success at this was evidenced by the enthusiastic participation in the post-show talkback. Collaboraction plans to bring the show to diverse audiences all around Chicago. This insightful work by an incredibly mature, talented, and engaging group is a perfect example of what great theater can accomplish when it combines a trenchant message with a beautiful way of telling it.
Crime Scene: A Chicago Anthology continues through April 7th at Collaboraction in the Flat Iron Arts Building, 1579 N. Milwaukee (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays-Mondays 7pm. Tickets are $15-$30, and are available by phone (312-226-9633) or online through Vendini.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at Collaboraction.org. (Running time: 80 minutes without intermission)
Photos by Cesario Moza
Scott Baity, Jr. (Lil JoJo, Ensemble), Brittany Bradshaw (Ameena, Ensemble), Victoria Blade (Natasha McShane, Ensemble), Luis Crespo (Heriberto Verimontes, Ensemble), Eddie Jordan III (Marlon Porter, Ensemble), Laura Korn (Stacy Jurich, Ensemble), Eamonn McDonagh (Fr. David Kelly, Ensemble), Niall McGinty (Prosecutor, Ensemble), Medina Perine (Lakesha Woodard, Ensemble), Shavac Prakash (Orlando Patterson, Ensemble), Lisandra Tena (Herself, Ensemble).
behind the scenes
Anthony Mosely (director, artistic director); Adam Seidel (co-deviser, asst. director); Sarah Moeller (producer); Miranda Gonzalez (co-deviser); Susanne Hufnagel (production manager); Sara Carranza (stage manager); Nick Rodriguez (asst. stage manager); John Wilson (set designer, technical director); Jeremy Getz (lighting designer); Kim Schechter (master electrician); Stephen Ptacek (sound designer); Liviu Pasare (video designer); Elsa Hiltner (costume designer); Angela Campos (props designer); Samantha Chavis (dramaturg); David Woolley (fight choreographer); Cesario Moza (photos)