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Don't Shed a Tear (The Story of Billie Holiday)

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Billie Holiday's story is rich in drama: raised in a whorehouse and married to numerous ne'er-do-wells, she was an addict determined to live life her way. Writer-director Jackie Taylor's biographical revue is Black Ensemble Theater's first R-rated work, complete with Holiday's foul language, reliance on hard drugs, and swinging sexuality. Add 16 familiar musical numbers to the trauma and tears and you have toe-tapping entertainment. Regrettably, Taylor also gives the jazz legend competing inner voices (as annoying to the audience as they are to her) and relies on monologue more than conflict-filled scenes to capture the relationships between Holiday and others. This decision puts a burden on Vikki Omega Stokes, whose tight-voiced interpretation of Holiday can be grating. --Jenn Goddu a Open run: Fri-Sat 8 PM, Sun 3 PM, Black Ensemble Theater, Uptown Center Hull House, 4520 N. Beacon, 773-769-4451, $40.

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