Just a forewarning: if you are looking for the Chicago featured on marketing postcards and glossy travel guides, you will not find it at Chicago Slam Works’ “Redlined.” There will be no mention of Buckingham Fountain, Millennium Park or Navy Pier. There will be no pictures of sprawling skylines, no top-ten list of great bars or restaurants, and if you’re looking for Bulls, Bears, Sox or Cubbies pride, you will be sorely disappointed.
What will not disappoint however is this lyrically potent love letter to the muffled and hidden faces of this city. In this production they are given both a face and a voice through the ensemble cast of J. Evelyn, Rashaad Hall, Shelley Elaine Geiszler, Frankiem Mitchell, Dru Smith and Teagan Walsh-Davis. These actors are extremely aware of the great burden and blessing that task is, and so with passion and heart they deliver the stories of the city’s forgotten. These stories include those of police-inflicted violence on innocent black and brown bodies—a phenomenon not limited to Eric Garner and Michael Brown, our out-of-state fallen angels. In fact, we are told that Chicago has the highest rate of police homicide in the country.
We hear the stories of a mother begging for change for her and her children, the mislabeled “crazy person” who talks to himself on the train, the public performers who pour out their hearts on each El car and the street harassment women endure in Lakewood. Even lampposts and rats get their just due.
Lead writer RJ Eldridge, along with the acting ensemble members and two additional non-performers (Nate Olison and Ladan Osman) have an acute ear for Chicago’s neglected, and with each poem they have written they remind them that regardless of what the powers that be think, your lives do matter.
J.W. Basilo’s tight, nuanced and commanding direction takes us on an eighty-minute El ride on the Red Line that is sure to let us out with a different frame of mind than the one we entered with. (Loy Webb)
Chicago Slam Works at Stage 773, 1225 West Belmont, chicagoslamworks.com. $20. Fridays through March 13.