Barbara Jordan's story takes center stage in Voice of Good Hope | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

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Barbara Jordan's story takes center stage in Voice of Good Hope

City Lit's docudrama captures some of the “moral muck” facing the south's first Black Congresswoman.

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Clocking in at 95 minutes, City Lit's production of Voice of Good Hope (directed by Terry McCabe) isn't long enough to capture the multitudes of its subject— the indomitable U.S. Representative Barbara Jordan, the first African American Congresswoman from the deep south. Jumping straight from her childhood as a wise dark-skinned Black child (a delightful MiKayla Boyd, alternating in the role with McKenzie Boyd) to her career as a savvy politician, playwright Kristine Thatcher employs only two key moments in Jordan's professional life, casting her as a John McCain figure—occasionally willing to cross the aisle for unity, yet ultimately failing to act in a critical moment. Complex themes of tokenism and Black liberation are introduced but not fully explored; however, the handling of the aftermath of the Nixon impeachment is particularly compelling. Ultimately this sampler-sized docudrama can be summed up by the famous Rodney King plea which Jordan quotes: "Can't we all just get along?"

Andrea Conway-Diaz plays a spirited and headstrong Jordan; moments where she struggles to overcome illness (Jordan had multiple sclerosis for decades) are particularly touching. A rollicking scene with Paul Chakrin as a charming Robert Strauss (a fellow Texan and chair of the Democratic National Committee) illustrates the jockeying leading to one of the most controversial and defining moments of Jordan's career, exploring the moral muck Black politicians must navigate when attempting to create change from within the depths of the political machine. Jordan's worldview may leave the audience wistful for a time when more politicians tried to strictly let reason rule above emotion, yet even sage Jordan, left with her regrets, muses: "Where do you put your anger?"  v

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