East Texas Hot Links | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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East Texas Hot Links



East Texas Hot Links

Dedicating this revival to the memory of James Byrd Jr., the Texas man who was dragged to his death by cracker racists, Ron O.J. Parson restages Onyx Theatre Ensemble's pile-driving 1995 inaugural production. Playwright Eugene Lee sets his call to arms in Klan country—the piney woods of east Texas. It's 1955, and the patrons of a ramshackle blacks-only bar, who've suffered all their lives from jim crow laws, finally and fatally fight back, joining forces to protect one of their own from, well, one of their own. With a storytelling zest to rival August Wilson's, Lee introduces us to seven strong-willed survivors, then turns up the heat; the excitement builds to a shock-wave ending. Credit Parson's eight terrific actors, who convey friendship and heroism in a hundred unforced ways. Solidly repeating their roles are Freeman Coffey as a reformed ex-con, Marsha Estell as the tough but loving tavern owner, Gregory Hollimon as a palm reader who overlooks his own doom, Craig Boyd as the love-struck kid, and Willie B. Goodson, riveting as the blind sage wryly propounding his fatalistic philosophy: "We get nourishment from the people we hate." The welcome newcomers are Victor J. Cole as a feckless womanizer, Charles Michael Moore as a fiery landlord, and Jeffrey D. Sams (a regular on the new TV show Cupid) in the play's most wrenching role, an opportunist who's made one too many deals with the man. Edgewater Theatre Center, Edgewater Presbyterian Church, 1020 W. Bryn Mawr, 773-561-5672. Open run: Fridays-Saturdays, 7:30 PM; Sundays, 5 PM; Mondays, 7:30 PM. $16-$18.

--Lawrence Bommer

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): theater still.

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