Ain't No Stopping Us Now | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Ain't No Stopping Us Now

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Jericho Theatre Works, at the Edgewater Presbyterian Church.

This horrendously muddled drama by Donald Williams Jr. is potentially a timely offering, given current efforts to revive the fervor that installed Harold Washington as Chicago's first black mayor. A combination of political thriller and what George C. Wolfe's The Colored Museum satirized as the formulaic "mama on the couch play," this work comes complete with such stereotypes as the embittered ex-radical and his sermonizing mother, sharp-tongued sister, and idealistic college-kid brother. Former mayoral aide Mitchell (a relentlessly intense Amos Ellis) is bent on proving that Washington was a victim of murder, not a heart attack; when he acquires evidence, he invites intimidation from unnamed white bad guys and eventually gives up trying to uncover the scandal. This abdication of responsibility is treated as evidence of his emotional maturation: it's time to get on with your life, his mama counsels as she serves up the family dinner.

Never mind the technical ineptitude of this Jericho Theatre Works production, or the overactive staging by Terry Cullers, in which the performers pace for no other purpose than to keep the stage picture changing. The big problem here is the script, whose endorsement of apolitical insularity would be offensive if it weren't so clumsy. Some eloquent if windy early monologues are welcome reminders of Washington's inspiration to young blacks--and progressives of all races. But Washington wasn't a one-man band: he was the focal point of a multiracial movement for community empowerment that no subsequent politician has been able to reassemble, and this play is an insult to him and everyone who worked with him.

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