Tag: Carla Stillwell

Review: Lawd the CVS Is Burning! A Gospel Music Stageplay (MPAACT)

Quinton Guyton and Max Thomas star in MPAACT's world-premiere "Lawd the CVS Is Burning!", witten and directed by Carla Stillwell. (photo credit: Shepsu Aakhu)         
      
Lawd the CVS is Burning! 

Written/Directed by Carla Stillwell
Greenhouse Theater, 2257 N. Lincoln (map)
thru Nov 22  |  tix: $15-$25  | more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
    

October 28, 2015 | 0 Comments More

Review: Without Trace (MPAACT)

Max Thomas stars as Trace in MPAACT's "Without Trace" by Eric Lockley, directed by Carla Stillwell. (photo credit: Shepsu Aakhu)        
      
Without Trace

Written by Eric Lockley
Directed by Carla Stillwell
at Greenhouse Theater, 2257 N. Lincoln (map)
thru June 1  |  tickets: $20-$25   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
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May 21, 2014 | 1 Comment More

Review: Leaves, Trees, Forest (MPAACT)

Trigney Morgan as Charles in MPAACT's "Leaves, Trees, Forest" by Paul Notice, directed by Carla Stillwell. (photo credit: Shepsu Aahku)        
       
Leaves, Tree, Forest 

Written by Paul Notice   
Directed by Carla Stillwell
at Greenhouse Theater, 2257 N. Lincoln (map)
thru March 3  |  tickets: $15-$23   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
        Read entire review
     

January 30, 2013 | 0 Comments More

Review: Bodies (MPAACT)

Caren Blackmore as Natalie Black in MPAACT's "Bodies" by Carla Stillwell, directed by Chuck Smith.       
      
Bodies

Written by Carla Stillwell  
Directed by Chuck Smith
Greenhouse Theater, 2257 N. Lincoln (map)
thru June 24  |  tickets: $15-$23   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
             Read entire review
     

May 22, 2012 | 0 Comments More

Review: Speaking in Tongues: The Chronicles of Babel (MPAACT Chicago)

     
MPAACT Chicago - Speaking in Tongues - Shepsu Aakhu
Speaking in Tongues
 

Written by Shepsu Aakhu
Directed by Andrea J. Diamond
Greenhouse Theater Ctr., 2257 N. Lincoln (map)
thru Oct 30  |  tickets: $21-$23  |  more info

Check for half-price tickets 
    
      
    
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September 30, 2011 | 0 Comments More

Review: The Last Saint on Sugar Hill (MPAACT)

     
     

A new modern tragedy classic is born

  
  

Chicago's award-winning theatre company MPAACT presents "The Last Saint on Sugar Hill" by Keith Josef Adkins.

  
MPAACT presents
  
  
The Last Saint on Sugar Hill
   
Written by Keith Josef Adkins
Directed by Carla Stillwell
at Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln (map)
through June 12th  |  tickets: $23  |  more info

Reviewed by K.D. Hopkins

It is a privilege to see new theater works from the outset. MPAACT’s production of The Last Saint on Sugar Hill is one of those rare privileged moments in time. This is destined to be a classic written by Keith Josef Adkins and directed by Carla Stillwell – Resident Director of MPAACT. Adkins opens the hot button issue of gentrification and those who profit from it for examination of motives and consequences.

The Pedigrew family lives a comfortable life in what remains of hardscrabble Harlem. The residence of former President Clinton, gourmet coffee, and wine shops threaten to change the landscape and remove the people who know no other home.

In a stunningly visceral performance, journeyman actor Trinity Murdock potrays the character of Napoleon Pedigrew, who presides over the last of the Harlem buildings gone to seed. I have seen Murdock in several roles on Chicago stages and he can be depended upon to play the neighborhood good guy or singing griot.

Chicago's award-winning theatre company MPAACT presents "The Last Saint on Sugar Hill" by Keith Josef Adkins. Chicago's award-winning theatre company MPAACT presents "The Last Saint on Sugar Hill" by Keith Josef Adkins. The role of Napoleon Pedigrew is rooted in ancient traditional tragedy and 20th Century social unrest. Playwright Adkins has carefully crafted a non-stereotypical role in Napoleon. I say that because it is an unflinching and honest look at what has been unspoken on the mainstream stage. Mr. Murdock presents a sociopath whose interests and wealth are literally ripped from the bodies and souls of those who are unfortunate enough to inhabit his buildings or contain his DNA.

The language is street raw and dismissive of political or societal correctness. There is no "N" word- it is nigger said with ferocity. At first, the rap that flows from Napoleon is pithy and comedic in the folksy style of that favorite or feared drunk relative. It is funny in the style of Richard Pryor performing for a Black audience. As the play barrels forward like a bullet, Napoleon Pedigrew’s words take on a frightening tilt. Here is a man who felt the spike of poverty and the chokehold of the underclass so keenly that his conscience snapped. Trinity Murdock plays this character laid bare and full of angry hubris. Napoleon brags of his knowledge from snippets of PBS to which he donates to give him the cache of current education. It is a bravura performance.

Napoleon Pedigrew’s sons are the vehicles for his parasitic real estate empire and the victims of his stranglehold on their memories. Mateo Smith plays the role of eldest son Dexter Pedigrew. Dexter was a promising med student who has been drawn into his father’s world of cracking heads for rent and unscrupulous methods to hide cheap or dangerous repairs. Mr. Smith gives a nuanced and heartbreaking performance as a man who wants to please his father and somehow be of service to the neighborhood that is crumbling under his feet. Napoleon tells Dexter that he is a thug and it would be a waste of his talent to be a doctor.

Dexter’s childhood holds a traumatic event that pressed his humanity to the side at his father’s behest. Napoleon tells his son, "Thinking is for thinkers and you are a thug down to the bone." He pounds the thought into Dexter’s head that boxing is the greatest form of capitalism and one of the fringe benefits of his daddy’s sperm. Smith subtly recoils at each of the jabs from the father character. Each jolt builds in a slow and controlled simmer that is on an equally frightening steady boil at the climax of the play.

The youngest son Z is played by David Goodloe. At first Z seems to play into his father’s world of debauchery. He reduces women to asses, thighs, and panties. Mr. Goodloe is at first funny as the tail-chasing stud playing with his daddy’s money. His father has him under the control of the promise of being comfortable no matter what happens in the neighborhood. Z gleefully hits happy hour at the new fancy cigar bar to see how much sex he can rack up. It’s sad to know that his youth has been wasted on violence and sex as an education. Napoleon encourages the hedonism in misplaced elevation of how he can rule the world with money.

Goodloe’s performance evolves into a man discontented with what his life has become. His realization comes as a sudden jolt after the father is fully revealed as a monster. Goodloe fleshes out the Pedigrew dysfunction by playing an unwitting victim who was never taught to be a fully evolved and involved man. The cast is rounded out by Terry Francois and Sati Word in perfectly crafted motif roles that fill in the story. Mr. Francois plays a homeless man who becomes the living conscience for Dexter. It is a beautiful performance that never becomes maudlin. Sati Word is another MPAACT ensemble regular that I last saw in the highly-recommended Tad in the 5th City (my review). He plays medical resident Joseph who reminds Dexter of his potential and responsibility to himself and his community. He represents another facet of Dexter’s conscience. Mr. Word is an engaging presence that I would love to see in a showcased role.

It should be noted that opening night was full of local actors and friends of the cast. I found it unsettling that they kept laughing long after it became obvious that Napoleon Pedigrew believed all of his egotistical folksy ravings. He meant that he would cut the heads off of his children if it would get him what he wanted. I felt great sorrow when Napoleon stated," America is trying to kill us Black men. We are an endangered species scrambling for our own crumbs. The only way to stop the watchful eye of The Man is to sit on a throne of cash!" Like any great art, there is painful or recognizable truth contained in the words, notes, or brushstrokes. It seems as if they have not seen much of the life they portray on the stage and I felt that it was very disrespectful of their fellow actors.

This show is something that should be put on your viewing schedule. It is entertaining but also a telling social commentary about how business gets done in America. Bernie Madoff and Donald Trump are just the tip of a very dirty iceberg. Also, Trinity Murdock’s performance is not to be missed. Bravo!

     
    
Rating: ★★★★
   
   

Chicago's award-winning theatre company MPAACT presents "The Last Saint on Sugar Hill" by Keith Josef Adkins.

MPAACT’s The Last Saint on Sugar Hill continues through June 12th at Chicago’s Greenhouse Theater Center (2257 N. Clark), with performances Thursdays through Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 3pm.  Tickets are $23, and can be purchased from the MPAACT website.

  
  
May 14, 2011 | 0 Comments More

REVIEW: Tad in the 5th City (MPAACT)

A burning reminder of days past

 

  
MPAACT presents
 
Tad in the 5th City
 
Directed and adapted by Carla Stillwell
Based on poetry by
Orron Kenyatta
at
Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln (map)
through June 13th  tickets: $23  |  more info

reviewed by K.D. Hopkins

I was eight years old when the West Side of Chicago went up in flames. My grandparents lived there and I visited them often. After the death of Dr. King and the riots, life changed for Black America and every pundit was asking why. Why would they burn their own neighborhoods? Why are they so angry? MPAACT Theatre presents life from the ashes of the riots with Tad in 5th City. It is a raw and painful look at how poverty, drugs, and the accompanying violence became systemic in Black families.

Tad in 5th City is adapted from the poetry of Orron Kenyatta by Carla Stillwell. Ms. Stillwell also directed this world premiere. The play takes us to ten years after the riots in the roach-infested apartment of the Brown family. Mama drinks from a liquor bottle like it’s water. Pappa Daddy is strung out on heroin. Older son James is feeling the pull of burgeoning thug life. Young Tad is an innocent born after the apocalypse on 29 blocks of Chicago. Life is happening to the Browns and they are struggling against an impossible tide of de facto segregation and new families formed by gangs.

Ms. Stillwell’s adaptation of Kenyatta’s poetry is fluid, retaining the angst of poet forebears such as Gil Scott Heron and The Last Poets. Life in the ghetto was not necessarily an episode of “Good Times” with stereotypically ‘strong Black women’ and errant Black men. The characters are represented realistically and with respect for the lives they chose no matter the path.

The griot of 5th City is the newspaper stand owner-Uncle Brotha. The magnificent Andre Teamer plays Uncle Brotha with the desperation and hope of a man watching his neighborhood swirl down the sewer. He knows that some people will be lost and he gives mentoring encouragement to those who can be saved. The entire neighborhood passes by his newsstand and he is the one positive constant in Tad’s life. Teamer’s body language seems weighted down and, indeed, his character carries a generation of burden. The anguish and tears that flow in the final scenes feel authentic in expressing loss, anger, and of having to speak the truth.

Sidney Miller plays the role of Mama. I have to say that it was a relief to see a Black female character as vulnerable instead of stoic and trembling in dignity all of the time. Ms. Miller’s Mama is a profane and wounded character. She sips from the liquor bottle as an anesthetic. Her person is pulled together one moment and disheveled the next. Yes, Mama is going it alone but there is scant pride or reward for her efforts.

Eddie Jordan III plays the role of Pappa Daddy, taking the difficult task of making an absentee addict father sympathetic. Pappa steals to hock items for the rent and to fill his veins with relief. He gets no respect at home and what love there was has long since left their marriage. Jordan powerfully projects the shame and self- loathing of addiction. This character is the proverbial invisible man until the police choose to see him. Drugs have obscured his pride and muted his drive to make any efforts at being the man of the house.

David Goodloe is new to America and the Chicago stage. His portrayal of James is like an exposed nerve. The usual portrayal is that young men want the easy life and money of drug dealing but the truth is often anything but easy. James’ family provides no role models. There is no dignity or power in the substandard education he is forced to endure. He chooses the most accessible route and gets a convoluted ‘brotherhood’ and status in peddling drugs.

Destin L. Teamer plays the central role of Tad. Young Destin Teamer is the son of Andre Teamer (Uncle Brotha), and this is his theatrical debut. What a debut it is! Destin is an adorable and handsome young man in the 5th grade and yet he turns in a performance of a seasoned veteran. His Tad is no adorable moppet watching the world in innocent wonder – his portrayal is savvy and heart breaking. Tad is a boy who likes to read the newspaper and draw comics, a huge deal in a neighborhood scarred by riots and decay. The character of Mama is profane in her version of love, telling him to ‘get his ass home by four’ and ‘get your ass to school’. Destin Teamer’s portrayal is unflinching and letter perfect. I give kudos on the possible beginnings of an acting dynasty.

Rounding out the cast are Sati Word and Shayla A. Jarvis. Mr. Word does triple duty as a drug dealer, a vicious pimp, and a hilarious preacher. My grandmother would refer to this Reverend as a ‘jacklegged’ preacher. Mr. Word spouts Biblical passages and platitudes at Uncle Brotha trying to bring him to his church. It is spot on how he pronounces God with three syllables. Mr. Word’s Reverend and Mr. Teamer’s Uncle Brotha have a magnificent sparring on the interpretation of the Bible, in particularly the Gospel of Matthew and Hebrews. They verbally circle each other in front of Tad in a climatic confrontation that sizzles with vitriol and anger. Mr. Word’s pimp starts out with the comic undertones of a 70’s television character. The tone darkens considerably when he calls the prostitute Miss Lady “bitch”.

Miss Lady is played by Shayla A. Jarvis. It is a searing performance and highlights the vulnerability in what has been perceived as a tough woman’s game. Ms. Jarvis tempers the comic possibilities of Miss Lady with her tenderness toward Tad and her respect for Uncle Brotha. Her character becomes the most sympathetic because she is not written as a drug addict. She works for the Pimp out of a need for love, protection, and approval. Hers is a story that has been analyzed for sociology studies and mined for fraternity pimps-and-ho’s parties, but Ms. Jarvis beautifully humanizes a woman on the lowest rung of a lower society.

Tad in 5th City tells a story that is unique to Chicago. Playwright Stillwell has lifted the cover off of a forgotten story. The city can tear down and gentrify the edifices in an attempt to obscure history but the wounds and vestiges are systemic. This story is a step toward confronting the past and healing it. Indeed the revolution will not be televised – the revolution will be live (with respect to G.S. Heron). MPAACT has produced yet another honest and powerhouse addition to the Chicago theatre scene. Tad In 5th City is not to be missed for those who love theatre and who love Chicago.

  
  
Rating: ★★★½
 

tadarticle

This is not a play for young children as there is incendiary language, violence, drug use, and frank sexuality.

The play runs Thursdays through Sundays from May 13th till June 13th at The Greenhouse Theatre Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. Box Office 773-404-7336 or www.mpaact.org

 

 

       
     
May 14, 2010 | 4 Comments More