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A Window to My Father's Fears


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A Window to My Father's Fears, Harassing Chicago and the Stage Actors Ensemble, at the Performance Loft. The performances at the center of this world premiere of Donald Williams's dystopian view of America circa 2050 are graceful, intense, and intelligent. Kenneth Johnson in particular sensitively portrays the father, a beleaguered African-American who's catatonic much of the time, but must play him too as a younger, very alert man in flashbacks. Sati Word generates much heat as his righteously pissed-off son, managing to make this stock character--one of those street-smart boyz in the hood--something more than a walking, talking cliche.

Too bad this eloquent acting has been put in the service of a messy, confusing play. Williams has the elements of a good drama here--in fact, of several good dramas, one about how working-class African-American men are beaten down, another about selling human beings for body parts, and a third about economic stagnation, bioterrorism, and government bureaucracy in a dark future. Unfortunately he can't decide which story he wants to tell: no sooner does he get started on one than he abandons it in favor of another.

Williams does slip in some sly comments about race relations. In his Chicago, the south side is an African-American zone whites must negotiate by hiring black guides. But most of Williams's ideas get lost in the noise of his inexpert storytelling.

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