Theater Review - Invisible Man

Theater Review - Invisible Man
by C. Dixon Freeman

Creating a play from author Ralph Ellison’s Court 1952 classic Invisible Man—as Court Theatre has done--would seem as risky as sailors following the call of the Sirens.  And yet what company wouldn’t be tempted?

The book has strong central character in the unnamed black male protagonist who tells the reader a nightmarish coming of age story that doubles as a treatise on race in 20th century America.  He is invisible, he learns — and we learn — because white people refuse to acknowledge him.  But Ellison’s book substitutes straight narrative with time shifts, metaphor, humorous riffs, and episodic pieces and character soliloquies that are like the jazz music that inspired his writing.  There’s a riot, a factory explosion and assorted other calamities. In the wrong hands, the play could have been diluted to assure a clearer storyline for the audience — or mishandled to the point of shipwreck.

Fortunately, director Christopher McElroen steers clear of the rocks and sails nicely with Invisible Man, which made its world premiere last Saturday at Court Theatre.  McElroen’s steady hand and Oren Jacoby’s well-done adaptation retains the power of Ellison’s landmark book — long thought to be unable to be staged — and more than a bit of its brilliance.

Teagle F. Bougere is pitch perfect as the invisible man, the tale’s central character and narrator.  Leading the 10-member cast, Bougere is a revelation, carrying the play on his shoulders as his character goes from adventure to misadventure, turning from a clueless Southern innocent, to a sly, worldly yet pained man who has learned to live — and ultimately take advantage of — the system that denies him.

Lance Steward Baker is a standout, playing a variety of characters, and is particularly good  as Brother Jack, leader of a Marxist group in Harlem.  A.C. Smith’s as president of the black college is also of note. Chris Boykin has a poignant turn as the ill-fated Tod Clifton.  And Troy Hourie’s set design and Alex Koch’s rear projection convincingly turn small stage to everything from a cramped New York City basement apartment to a Southern all-black college to the big streets of New York.  A scene in which the protagonist faces a series of spinning closed doors as he looks for a job in Manhattan is simply inspired.

The play has a few rough edges to sand off.  For a three hour play, the scene at the Golden Day restaurant and the aftermath rush by too quickly.  Given the mishap there essentially sends his character on his journey, those scenes should have played out longer and deeper, as was the case in the book.  And actor Paul Oakley Stovall should let loose and make Ras as fearsome as the character depicted in the book.

Still, Invisible Man is noteworthy piece of theater and is recommended.


Invisible Man continues at Court Theatre through February 19, 2012.  All photos by Michael Brosilow.

Find us on FacebookFollow us on Twitter
View our videos on YouTubeView our profile on LinkedIn 


SunSpots: Tamberla Perry - On "Race"

Stephanie's Just Hangin' Around!


Tamberla Perry - A Rising Star

I was delighted to have the opportunity to steal a moment from Tamberla Perry at the Goodman Theater between an “artist talk” and a preview performance!  Tamberla is starring alongside Geoffrey Owens, Patrick Clear and Marc Grapey in Race by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet, directed by Chuck Smith.  I’ve enjoyed Tamberla in numerous performances, including Brother/Sister Plays at Steppenwolf, Northlight’s Eclipsed, Fedra: Queen of Haiti at LookingGlass and several performances with MPAACT Afrikan Centered Theatre, of which she is a member. 

Tamberla Perry 50 Most Beautiful Chicagoans Photo by Maria Ponce

On film, Tamberla Perry has appeared in Tapioca, Puzzled Love and Chasing Robert. She can be seen hosting the Illinois Lottery on WGN and on the new Starz series Boss.  Ms. Perry's voice can be heard on many national television and radio commercials.

Even more impressive is the fact that her talent comes not from extensive academic training, but from commitment and hard work.  Take a look and a listen to learn more about Tamberla Perry and Race.

Tamberla Perry - On "Race" 

Race continues through February 19 at the Goodman Theatre, 170 North Dearborn.  Tickets are $25-89.

To-Dos - Suburban Style: Things To-Do In the New Year

Accomplishing Your Goals in 2012!

By Tracye Dee

The arrival of 2012 not only brings with it the traditional countdown to midnight followed by a bubbly toast; and, the black eyed peas, greens, and ham dinners for good luck and prosperity on New Year’s Day; but, also the dreams of something more to come.  It’s an opportunity for a new start.  This is the time we’re most enthusiastic and focused on making positive changes in our lives.  Several years ago, I decided not to make resolutions around my dreams, but to plan and document goals.  The difference is that setting goals forced me to make them specific and measureable, to set progress dates, and to work it into my busy life.  A dream is just a dream until you plan for it!

What are your goals for 2012?  Some common goals that come up annually for most include: 1) Losing weight, 2) Spending more time with family, 3) Volunteering time, 4) Getting organized, and 5) Learning something new. It’s not easy to break old habits and achieve new successes, but it’s not impossible.  A new cycle begins today. You can resolve to change your entire life or certain aspects of it. So, let’s get on with life and everything new 2012 has to offer!

Listed below are some Suburban To-Dos to help you begin accomplishing your goals in 2012.

Lines N MotionLines-N-Motion Line Dance Class  

Looking for a fun way to get your new year off to a healthy start and burn those unwanted calories?  Join Belynda Head of Lines ‘N’ Motion on Thursdays starting January 26th for a 1-hour line dance work-out. To the beats of R&B hits, Belynda will guide you step by step through several of the current line dances.  By the end of the course, you will have learned several new dances and burn lots of calories. The class size is limited, so register soon. Registration and payment must be made by January 23rd.

Where:  Studio Energia, 335 S. Bartlett Rd, Streamwood, Illinois 
Price: $37, 5 weeks
Drop-Ins Permitted: No
When: 6 - 7pm, Thursdays, January 26th through February 23rd

Temple Fitness Solutions – Fitness for Self Defense

Many people strength train with weights, cardio, or both – somewhere in between there is Fitness for Self-Defense, a new concept offered by Temple Fitness Solutions.  Get the benefits of both cardio and self-defense.  In learning self-defense techniques, if an attack is inevitable, you will be ready physically to respond, while reducing the degree of harm to yourself.  As a result of this program, you will burn calories, feel your body get stronger, your overall balance and stability improve, and your cardiovascular fitness level increase.  Combining this program with the proper nutrition, you will see a difference within the first 3 months.

Where:  Walker Athletics, 4925 Indiana Avenue, Lisle, Illinois
Price: $147 per month x 12 months
Drop-In Permitted: Prefer advance notice
When: 7:30 – 8:30pm, Mondays & Wednesdays starting in January (space limited)

Cross Country SkiingLake County Forest Preserves – Learn to Cross Country (XC) Ski   

So, you want to learn something new and get fit at the same time?  Learn to cross country ski at one of the most beautiful forest preserves around!  XC skiing is an excellent outdoor winter activity.  You will be taught the history of the sport while developing your arm and leg muscles. Bring your own ski equipment and dress warmly.

Where:  Intersection of Washington and Atkinson, Grayslake, Illinois
Price: $5 per adult and child ($7 Non-Resident),
Drop-In Permitted: No, Registration deadline is January 14 and February 18.
When: 10am – 12pm, Sunday, January 15th & Sunday, February 19th.

Ice SculptingSnow Sculpting in Rockford Illinois

If your goal is to spend more time with family, then you might consider a day trip to Sinnissippi Park in Rockford, Illinois.  Watch snow-sculpting teams form "frozen art" from giant blocks of snow.  Abstract shapes and whimsical figures take shape under the skilled hands of state teams and high school teams.  Walk or drive the one-mile route through the park to see sculptures.  Of course, in order to sculpt, they need snow – so be sure to check the website for notice of any postponement!

Where:  Sinnissippi Park, 1401 N. Second St., Rockford, Illinois
Price: Free!  (But, donations are welcome)
When: Viewing hours are daily from sunrise until 11pm; Jan. 25-28, 2012

Tracye Dee

SunSpots: Plug In to Black:Unplugged!

Stephanie's Just Hangin' Around!


Plug In to Music and the Mission of Little Black Pearl

On Friday, December 16th, Little Black Pearl ("LBP") kicked off its Black:Unplugged series with Dr. Angela Davis, Dianne Reeves, Teri Lyne Carrington, Nona Hendryx and Tia Fuller.  Black:Unplugged provides an exclusive opportunity for 300 Black Card Members to experience a series of intimate, quarterly music performances.  But, more importantly, Black:Unplugged seeks to plug these card-carrying members in to LBP's mission by connecting them to its programs, school and community in an intimate way - sort of as good will ambassadors.

OLS Student Performers Student Performers

The program opened with performances by students of the Options Laboratory School ("OLS"), which is a charter school that LBP launched on August 13, 2011 with 175 Chicago-wide students.  Black Card Members were entertained with poetry by two students and a live musical performance of original work by a complete band, including vocalists (with the support of Bethany Pickens, a musical instructor at OLS).  It was a joy to see these talented students perform before an incredibly supportive audience. 

Student Artwork

OLS seeks to engage students who haven't performed well in traditional schools, but have expressed an interest in arts and technology.  Monica Haslip, LBP founder, said that during this first year, OLS staff has spent a lot of time "deprogramming" students and gaining their trust.  OLS also uses arts and creativity to inspire students' interest in other core curriculum, for example, understanding the science behind glass-blowing.  (Student-created glass art was prominently displayed on each table.)  Earlier on Friday, the OLS students were treated to classes and discussion led by Angela Davis, Dianne Reeves and Tia Fuller, who remarked that she was surprised by the students' intensity and focused questions.

Dianne Reeves Dianne Reeves

Dianne's performance was brilliant, showcasing powerhouse vocals, graceful range and skilled improvisational scatting and interaction with Tia Fuller, on saxophone.  She treated the audience to a nice set of music, including her rendition of I'll be Home for Christmas, which clearly expressed her joy at being able to spend Christmas at home with family this year.  The audience was also thrilled to hear the familiar hit Better Days.  Teri Lyne Carrington, LBP board member and curator and musical director of the Black:Unplugged series, held the beat down with her usual aplomb.

Dr. Angela Davis Dr. Angela Davis

It was awe-inspiring to see human rights activist, Dr. Angela Davis, gracefully aged, poised and poetic.  Backed by the band, she turned discourse to poetry as she spoke at length on the prison system, incarceration rates, justice and respect for Mother Nature.  Finally, Nona Hendryx, LBP board member and hostess for the evening, joined in on the action and closed it out with Strange Fruit.  What a wonderful opportunity to experience such talent in an intimate, creative space - the entire evening was delightful!

Nona Hendryx, Monica Haslip & Teri Lyne Carrington Nona Hendryx, Monica Haslip & Teri Lyne Carrington

According to Monica Haslip, LBP has traditionally used word of mouth to market its events, sort of a grass roots effort.  Similarly, Black:Unplugged does not have the advantage of huge financial resources to pull off this extraordinary series.  Rather, LBP has leveraged the relationships of its board members, Nona Hendryx and Teri Lyne Carrington.  Their infectious passion for the organization has ignited the passion of prominent artists and humanitarians, who have been happy to lend their talent and celebrity in support of LBP's mission.

Black Card Membership has its privileges!  Only 300 memberships will be issued and members, exclusively, are invited to attend upcoming Black:Unplugged performances by George Duke and Lizz Wright (March 16th), Lalah Hathaway and Rahsaan Patterson (June 9th) and VIP seating at special PearlFest performance this summer!  Membership payments ($150-$1,000 for individual, premiere individual, family or corporate) support LBP afterschool and summer programming for youth.

Soleil's To-Dos Urban Event Calendar

Images by Farrad Ali Photography

View my amateur photos on FaceBook!

To-DosLetter: New Year's Eve To-Dos!

Stephanie's Just Hangin' Around!

 New Year's Eve To-Dos! 


As the year draws to a close, a huge question lingers: What are we going To-Do for New Year's Eve?!?!  Well, I'm dropping in a little early to give you a heads-up on what we already have uploaded.  Whether you want to be in the thick of things, smack dab in the city, chilling with a glass of Champagne or literally laughing that Champagne out of your mouth - we have plenty of options!

New Years Eve Old School Mayhem f/ The Hot Mix5 and The Chosen Few: If you want to be in the thick of it, this To-Do at Navy Pier is for you! They have  parking covered, a place for you to crash if you drink too much, and while I wasn't a Chicagoan in The Chosen Few/Hot Mix 5 days, I know enough to know that they have the music covered, too! As with the Chosen Few picnic, expect a mature crowd that knows how to get down, but also knows how to behave!

 New Years Eve 2012 Salsa Tropical Blowout! Alhambra Palace is the place to be for live music by Orquesta Nabori, a Champagne toast and DJs spinning tropical tunes. This spacious venue ought to provide plenty of room for you to get your Salsa on! Dinner packages are also available! $35-175

Cirque De' Exquisite 2012 (I don't spell it, I just report it!): Laser light show, indoor waterfall, Miami-style cabanas, state of the art sound system, river front view and private glass VIP area will combine to make this Club Net 360 party quite the swanky To-Do! Of course, they selected one of the hottest venues in Chicago - the River East Art Center! $100-1,000

New Year's EveNYE Golden 2012 The Movemakers, the Influence Group and enFULLAffect Marketing have joined forces to bring you this epicurean delight, with cuisine prepared by Chef Amuse Bouche at China Grill (Hard Rock Hotel)! Come for the food, stay for the party! Dinner packages: 6-course dinner and party for two, $200; Without party, $150. Party Package: Cash bar, party favors and Hors d'Ouevres, $40 (Early Bird). VIP packages available.

Terisa Griffin Presents "A New Year's Eve Mardi Gras Bash" The "Empress of Soul" is guaranteed to make your ears happy and, with a different drink special every hour and New Orleans-Style cuisine, your taste buds won't be left out of the party! $100

Red Rising - New Years Eve Party f/ Black Slang! Black Slang, featuring Corey Wilkes is HOT and the intimate space of Red Kiva will make things even HOTTER! The price includes a champagne toast, chocolate truffle and a free gift bag. $50

More To-Do on NYE:

Roy Hargrove Quintet
NYE w/ Guy King's Little Big Band 
New Year's Eve Laugh Explozzion 
Marcus Adams Band 
NYE at M Lounge 

We'll be doing a final, updated New Year's Eve To-DosLetter within the next week or two, so don't let your event be left out in the c-c-cold!  Post your event information for consideration using our Event Submission Form. Or if you'd like to shine some light on it in this special To-DosLetter or through a Solo E-Mail or Ray of Light, drop me a line!

Whatever you decide To-Do, make it a fabulous weekend!



Page 1 ... 6 7 8 9 10 ... 16 Next 5 Entries »