Twisted Melodies | Athenaeum Theatre | Theater & Performance | Chicago Reader

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When: Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through Sept. 13 2015

Actor-playwright-singer-pianist Kevin Rolston Jr. stars in his own one-man play about 1970s soul singer Donny Hathaway, whose struggle with paranoid schizophrenia led to his suicide in 1979. While Rolston delivers solid renditions of some of Hathaway's repertoire—including "The Ghetto—Part 1," "The Closer I Get to You," the John Lennon ballad "Jealous Guy," and the exquisite Tin Pan Alley standard "For All We Know"—the focus here is on Hathaway's escalating mental illness, in particular his belief he was being persecuted by an imaginary "Machine" trying to steal "my songs and my secrets." Rolston's sometimes frighteningly intense performance is supported by the work of sound designer Rick Sims, video producer Dre Robinson, and projections designer Paul Deziel, who evoke the sometimes beautiful but mostly chaotic visual and auditory hallucinations that disrupted Hathaway from his ability to create beautiful music. Congo Square Theatre's production, directed by Samuel G. Roberson Jr., is a powerful and sometimes painful examination of the tragedy of mental illness as well as a worthy tribute to an iconic artist. —Albert Williams

Price: $17.50-$37.50