Out My Window | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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As ticket prices have risen and theaters have begun to focus on shows by, for, and about the upper middle class, an art form once as populist as the movies and TV has become increasingly elitist. But it doesn't have to be that way, as Scrap Mettle Soul emphatically illustrates in this messy, moving, community-written, community-performed show. Using stories collected from the pregentrification residents of Edgewater and Uptown and performed by an all-amateur cast from the same neighborhoods, director Richard Geer (who helped pioneer this kind of show in rural Georgia in the early 90s) has cobbled together a revue that chronicles with remarkable unsentimentality life among the lower classes in Chicago. In one heart-stopping story, a woman tells how her best friend drowned in Montrose Harbor. In another, a widow describes the long journey she made from Chicago to Spain in the 30s to visit her husband, then fighting in the Spanish Civil War--only to find he'd been killed in battle a week after they parted. Not all the tales are equally successful, and some sections of the show just fall to pieces as actors forget their lines, space out on blocking, or fail to show up entirely. But a wonderful raggedy-ass energy carries it along. Margate Park Community Center, 4921 N. Marine, 773-506-3408, ext. 89. Through June 8: Thursdays-Saturdays, 7:30 PM; Sundays, 3 PM. $7; "low-income individuals and families can make a donation of what they can afford." --Jack Helbig

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Scrap Mettle Soul Players photo.

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