Chicago Theatre Review
1776 and All That Jazz
The American Revolution – Adventure Stage
Everyone knows George Washington as this country’s first President, a man nicknamed “the Father of Our Country.” Very few folks, however, know about a young man named Billy Lee, a slave to the illustrious General. Like many African Americans, Lee fought in this country’s War for Independence, not only in the name of America but in exchange for his personal freedom from slavery. Here is just one of many individuals and incidents the audience learns about in a peppy, powerful and enterprising production guaranteed to spark discussion and motivate further reading.
Marc Frost’s inventive movement-based theatrical troupe began four years ago with a piece entitled “Superman 2050.” Created by his ensemble of skilled performers and molded by Mr. Frost’s spirited direction, this young cast dedicates its energies and creativity to “telling stories using the entire body, mind, heart and soul.” Incorporating mime, dance, performer-generated sounds and elements of the circus, this company of seven actors work as one to make the invisible visible, the inaudible audible and the impossible possible on stage.
Performed about three feet above the stage on a cramped, 21-foot platform, seven multitalented actors tell the complicated, alternately humorous and dramatic story. The events that led up to a war, fought by 13 frustrated American colonies against the suffocating British rule imposed by an out-of-touch monarch, are played out at breakneck speed. The ultimate signing of the Declaration of Independence is depicted, along with the aftermath of this historical event. Portrayed within Marc Frost’s 50-minute production are familiar historical figures who have gained folklore fame, as well as those forgotten, even unknown heroes who gave their all for an independent country.
Every member of this hardworking ensemble, including Rachel K. Levy for her magical lighting design, deserves high praise. Brittany Anderson, Kathleen Hoil, Vanessa S. Valliere, Quenna Lene, Trey Hobbs, Aaron Rustebakke and, especially, Jeffery Freelon, who plays both Washington and his slave Billy Lee, are skillful storytellers. Dynamic, athletic and poetic they all work together to tell America’s story with economy and elegance, humor and chutzpah. This inventive production makes history informative and fun for both older children and their parents, as well. Followed by Adventure Stage’s always enlightening talkbacks, this is a highly entertaining look at 1776 and all that jazz.
by Colin Douglas
Presented November 8-29 by Theater Unspeakable, performed at Adventure Stage Chicago in the Vittum Theatre, 1012 N. Noble, Chicago.
For tickets call 773-342-4141 or go to www.adventurestage.org.
Additional information about this and other area productions can be found by visiting www.theatreinchicago.com.