Langston's Lab | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Langston's Lab


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In the spring of 1949, poet Langston Hughes--one of the powerhouses of the Harlem Renaissance--taught at the University of Chicago's Laboratory Schools. Essentially a creative person at large, he dealt with kids at every grade level (he especially relished the kindergarten class) and passed on to anyone who was willing to listen everything he knew about poetry, prose, jazz, and the blues. Playwright John Biser's loving two-act portrait of Hughes during this period re-creates the excitement he must have generated in the halls of the school John Dewey founded. He does this by packing his production with plenty of current Lab students--from the kindergarten, middle school, and upper school--plus a handful of professional off-Loop actors. If it weren't for the age differences, however, I'd be hard-pressed to tell who in the cast was a student and who a pro: fine performances by the Lab Schools kids, playing themselves and reciting Hughes's poetry, do nothing to challenge their reputation for precocity. The result is a lively, fast-paced show that's part hip history lesson, part poetry slam, part hyperenergetic school assembly. Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis, 773-753-4472. Through July 31: Fridays-Saturdays, 8 PM. $12. --Jack Helbig

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