Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2019-04-10
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

HeLa
by Jonathan Abarbanel, Windy City Times
2018-12-04

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Playwright: J. Nicole Brooks

At: Sideshow Theatre Company at the Greenhouse, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. Tickets: 773-404-7336; GreenhouseTheater.org; $30. Runs through: Dec. 23

HeLa juxtaposes three storylines linked only abstractly. Each one contains fine scenes that display the skill of J. Nicole Brooks, who benefits as a playwright from her experience as an actor. Collectively, however, HeLa is an odd duck.

Story One presents the cancer-related death of an unnamed Black woman in mid-20th-century Baltimore. Story Two presents a Black 1980s 9-year-old Chicagoan, nurtured by her uncle and cousin, who dreams of becoming an astronaut or cosmologist. Story Three features two once-earthly beings, now adrift yet alive in space—one a Black woman and the other David Bowie's Major Tom. The stories intercut with each other as actors double or triple in various roles.

Only by reading an article in the program did I understand that the dying woman was Henrietta Lacks ( 1920-1951 ), whose biopsied tumor tissues were cultivated into HeLa—the first human cell line to achieve scientific immortality. HeLa cells still are extensively used for medical research and were used by NASA for outer-space experiments, the article noted.

This helped me make abstract connections between the stories: how the dying Black woman unknowingly became part of the inspiration for the young Black girl; how the woman's literal physical essence—shot into space—gave rise to the surreal Black space entity, who offers sage but emotional commentary on our world; how the stars and heavens inspire and connect mere human mortals.

Many may be familiar with Lacks and HeLa—as I was not—via a 2010 book by Rebecca Skloots and a 2017 TV film with Oprah Winfrey. Such informed viewers may plug into this play immediately. But—and it's a big "but"—audience members should not have to read the program for sufficient context to make sense of the juggled stories. If I'd not read the article, I would have been lost and, therefore, uninterested and dismissive of HeLa. This is a serious dramaturgical problem. A play needn't be literal or realistic, but its context must be self-apparent to viewers.

Still, there are precious and heartfelt moments throughout that are beautifully written, directed ( by Jonathan L. Green ) and played: a scene of charm yet pain between Henrietta and an affable fellow patient, a marriage proposal during a total eclipse, a man tenderly mourning his wife, a poetic meeting of space entities momentarily breaking their loneliness, a closing celebration of achievement. The fine cast includes Deanna Reed-Foster, Matt Fletcher, Aya Sol Masai Hall ( Little Girl ), David Hamilton, Nicole Michelle Haskins, Ann James and Carolyn Nelson—all in multiple roles, except Hall.

A stage-wide wall of institutional green tiles dominates Yu Shibagaki's set, which Simean Carpenter's fluorescent and industrial lighting doesn't warm. The effect is efficient, but cold.


facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email





Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

THEATER REVIEW Cambodian Rock Band 2019-04-15 - Playwright: Lauren Yee At: Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave. Tickets: 773-781-3000; VictoryGardens.org; $32-$65. Runs through: May 5 Cambodian Rock ...


Gay News

THEATER REVIEW Lottery Day 2019-04-14 - Playwright: Ike Holter At: Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St. Tickets: GoodmanTheatre.org. Runs through: April 28 "If you want to ...


Gay News

Millennium Park Summer Films to celebrate Year of Chicago Theatre 2019-04-12 - The Millennium Park Summer Film Series will offer a lineup of popular classic and recent movie selections on Tuesdays, June 4 through August ...


Gay News

Downton's McGovern and Fellowes reunite for "The Chaperone" 2019-04-12 - In 1922, Wichita, Kansas, native Louise Brooks left her home to study modern dance at the Denishawn School in New York City. Just ...


Gay News

THEATER REVIEW Utility 2019-04-12 - Playwright: Emily Schwend At: Interrobang Theatre Project at Rivendell Theatre, 5779 N. Ridge Ave. Tickets: InterrobangTheatre.org or 312-219-4140; $32. Runs through: May 4 ...


Gay News

'Night of Noise' variety show April 14 2019-04-11 - The Illinois Safe Schools Alliance will be "breaking" the Day of Silence with its third annual variety show, "Night of Noise: Onward and ...


Gay News

THEATER REVIEW Afterglow 2019-04-10 - Playwright: S. Asher Gelman At: Buena Theater, 4147 N. Broadway . Tickets: $25-$40; PrideFilmsandPlays.com, or 866-811-4111 or 773-857-0222. Runs through: May 5 ...


Gay News

Spotlight 2019-04-10 - We've all said it: "The world would be a better place if there were more people like me!" Oh? Really? How many identical ...


Gay News

Critics' Picks 2019-04-10 - Herland, Redtwist Theatre, through April 14—Empowered by Bruce Springsteen anthems, four women of diverse ages, intents and erotic impulses vow to determine their ...


Gay News

THEATER REVIEW Pinocchio 2019-04-08 - Playwrights: Joseph Steakley and Ben Loppries At: House Theatre of Chicago at Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division St. Tickets: 773-769-3832; TheHouseTheatre.com; $30-$50. Runs ...


 



Copyright © 2019 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor


 



About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.