Chicago Theatre Review
"God's Gonna Trouble The Water"
By Olivia Lilley
“Head of Passes” refers to the mouth of the Mississippi river. For two magical hours, we watch helplessly as matriarch Shelah, her house, and her family are washed away by its waters and swallowed up by the gulf till there’s nothing left. Playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney deserves all of the awards he receives, and Tina Landau directs a production, which sings at the top of its lungs; much like the stunning otherworldly vocal stylings of
Kyle Beltran as the lonely, confused Crier. Cheryl Lynn Bruce is a hurricane as Shelah, the mother and grandmother struggling to rule over her family after the passing of her husband. Jacqueline Williams as Mae is her perfect foil and sidekick. James T. Alfred and Glenn Davis are believable, hilarious, and touching as the brothers who couldn’t be more different. Ron Cephas as Creaker and Kyle Beltran as Crier were the goofy, dysfunctional father son duo that always brought an extra jolt of energy to the stage. Tim Hopper as Dr. Anderson walks the line of close friend and greatest threat very well. As the carrier of the truth about Shelah’s illness, he represents its presence in her life as much as he represents the family’s devotion, respect, and desire to take care of her. Alana Arenas gives a knock out performance as the enraged, wounded Cookie. Chris Boykin as the angel was the most convincing ghost I’ve ever seen portrayed onstage, and his construction worker was precisely what he needed to be.
David Gallo’s set design was subtle in all of the right ways. From it’s use of the light bulb to the suggestion of the Gulf to the dressing of Shelah’s room in the second act, for which there are several layers of interpretation, this was the work of a master. One of the most expressive visual effects I have ever seen happens towards the end of Act 1, which I will not give away. Scott Zielinski’s lighting was in harmony with the set and the acting.
Steppenwolf is one of those theatre companies that lives to take risks. Everything about this play is ambitious: the language, the structure, the plot, the themes. It is the early work of a tremendous talent in the making.
Do yourself a favor. Go see it.
Head of Passes
By Tarell Alvin McCraney
Directed by Tina Landau
Running April 4th – June 9th, 2013 in the Downstairs Theatre
1650 Halsted St.
Chicago, Il 60614
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