Direct from Death Row: The Scottsboro Boys (An Evening of Vaudeville and Sorrow), by Mark Stein, Music and Lyrics by Harley White, Jr., produced by Raven Theater Company. The following taken from a review by Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun Times, because she says it so much better than I.
“It’s a stunner. Mark Stein’s important, ingeniously conceived play — with a wonderfully warped use of traditional songs, plus original music and lyrics by Harley White Jr. — is a magnificent achievement on the part of its creators. And it has been brilliantly directed by Michael Menendian (in the most superb, breakout work of his long career), with a cast of nine young, blazingly talented African American actors diving brilliantly into satirical work that would bring a big smile to Bertolt Brecht’s face.
Add to this the droll, effortless presence of pianist-music director Frederick Harris, the volcanic period choreography by Kathleen Dennis and the contributions of an ideal design team, and you have a production that does full justice to the enduring case being chronicled. But you also have a show that turns what might have been a straightforward documentary into a volcanic, searingly painful yet simultaneously immensely entertaining look at the whole panoply of issues — race, politics, justice, celebrity, sex, money, class and the nature of individual character — illuminated by this case.”
In my own words – DBH and I were gob-smacked by this play. In addition to all that Ms. Weiss says, this play has masks. Yes, masks, as in double suspension of disbelief. The African-American actors wore masks to become the white characters in the telling of this tale of hate and ignorance. This was our first time at the Raven Theater, even though it’s been on North Clark for 30 years. A real food desert if you want to combine dinner with theater. So, not one of our most memorable meals, but one of our most memorable evenings of theater. A full-blooded royal prince.