By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., Chicago Crusader
The Crusader wrote about this in a recent edition, but imagine Samuel L. Jackson and Don Cheadle on a street corner just talking smack—ruminating about days gone by and dreaming about rising above their current situations and reaching the Promised Land. Now, this isn’t necessarily a place up in the sky, but a place where everything they wished for—from Air Jordans to champagne and even beans and rice—are in abundance.
But instead of Jackson and Cheadle, we have Jon Michael Hill as Moses and Julian Parker as Kitch in “Pass Over.” The two men’s commentary is as vibrant and explosive as one would imagine the above-mentioned film stars would be, as they regale each other with stories, most times greeting each other and dotting their words with the “N” word. Yes, that word that talk show host and comedian Bill Maher recently found himself in hot water for using. Nigga!!
And then a proper, white gentleman who reminds one of Gomer Pyle invades their space, and Moses and Kitch are confused as to the man’s mission. On top of this, the stranger gives his name as Mister, a name which the two men aren’t going to even try to use to address him. But this man wonders just why Moses and Kitch are comfortable addressing each other as Nigga but uncomfortable addressing him as Mister.
This is how the new world premiere of the Antoinette Nwandu play “Pass Over” at the Steppenwolf Theatre, located at 1650 N. Halsted St., unfolds during the first half. It is a riff on “Waiting for Godot,” but with Black men who use the most colorful language to pass away their time. Inspired in part by the young Black men Nwandu encountered as a community college teacher, the play crafts profane language into poetic riffs, revealing to the audience the unquestionable human spirit of these young men.
“At its core, this play asks us collectively to consider the value of Black lives, specifically the lives of young Black men who are not extraordinary, who are not entertainers, they’re not athletes, they’re not secret math geniuses. They’re young men who might never get better, who might never be different. This play challenges us to envision a society that does not ask these young men to prove their worth,” shares playwright Nwandu.
This play, which runs through July 9, is brilliant and one worth trying to see. It is a play where most audience members are speechless at its conclusion. For more information, visit steppenwolf.org.
“Juicy and resonant…filled with the music and longing of composer Orbert Davis,” (Chicago Tribune) and “highly recommended…every note is pitch perfect” (Chicago Sun-Times) are among the many raves for TimeLine’s Midwest premiere of “Paradise Blue,” a historical drama by acclaimed Detroit playwright Dominique Morisseau. The play is set in 1949 in Detroit’s Black Bottom neighborhood, where Blue, the gifted trumpeter and troubled owner of the Paradise nightclub is contemplating a buyout offer for the city’s urban renewal plan. As the inhabitants of his famed but faltering jazz club ponder their options and dream of a better life, a mysterious woman arrives, relationships are tested and new challengers emerge that could turn their worlds upside down.
“Paradise Blue” is another great play by playwright Morisseau, who has been described as carrying the legacy of the late playwright August Wilson. It sizzles with just enough hot blues, a sexy woman and intrigue to keep you wondering just which character will turn on another next. Morisseau’s previous play at TimeLine was “Sunset Baby,” and this play is just as exciting. It runs through July 23, and the theatre is located at 615 W. Wellington Ave. For more information, visit www.timelinetheatre.com.
Donica Lynn and Today’s a Good Day—Walk With Me:
Donica Lynn announces the fifth annual benefit concert “Today’s a Good Day—Walk With Me” at 8:00 p.m. on Monday, June 26, at the Mercury Theater Chicago, 3745 N. Southport Ave. All proceeds from tickets sales, donations and raffle will be donated equally to the American Cancer Society and the American Brain Tumor Association.
The benefit features three-time cancer survivor Donica Lynn, Doug Pawlik, Dave Budrys, Billy Dawson, Aaron Benham Kael Mboya, Michael Lockett, Kimberly Lawson, Curtis Fondren, Aaron Mitchell Reese, Taylor Iman Carter, Robin da Silva and Donica’s children Aerial Dwyer, Sabastian, and Sidra. Special guests scheduled to perform are Jess Godwin, Caleb Baze, Leah Pawlik, Grant Thomas Zabielski, DC Ford, Doug Peck, Jim McCaffrey and a special guest from Artists Giving Back Chicago.
Benefit producer and performer Donica Lynn states, “Although this concert began five years ago as my personal testament through song of my journey and battle with the diagnosis, treatments and aftercare of brain cancer, “Today’s a Good Day-Walk With Me” has now become a concert event that speaks to any medical journey, large or small. This concert brings together friends and family to celebrate the lives being lived through the journey, those that help along the way, as well as those that we’ve lost-during our Angels tribute. The concert is on the eve of my birthday, which is an ideal time to celebrate another year of my life and these organizations that help give life.”
All involved in “Today’s a Good Day-Walk With Me” are donating their time. Performances will include personal stories of Donica’s medical journey and songs that have been meaningful to Donica and the other performers throughout the past year, including music by Jason Robert Brown, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Elton John and the musicals 13, Waitress and James and the Giant Peach.
Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Tickets are available at www.mercurytheaterchicago.com.