Phillip Lewis is a freelancing director and playwright native to Chicago. He has worked with companies such as Silent Theatre Company, Pegasus Players, Oracle Theater, and Prop Thtr along with a number of Deaf theater companies. He primarily focuses on the aesthetics of storytelling involving the representation of intersectionality and accessibility for all. He hopes to soon be a part-time American Sign Language Interpreter and a full-time impactful director.
Pictured: Ensemble members of Q Brothers CHRISTMAS CAROL. Photo by Liz Lauren.
By Phillip Lewis
“Wildin’ out”: a term best used to describe the act of letting loose and breaking free of the traditional and ever-constant status quo. The Q Brothers are anything but common. Truth is, not everyone can do what these brothers do. Amidst a heavily concentrated number of Christmas Carol shows in the city, the Q Brothers add an adaptive nerve that sets up a new story while also hitting its spirit.
My fondness for Dickens’ tale is immeasurable. Ergo, repeated versions of the show done without the earned pinnacle moments deter me from any excitement when a new version hits the scene.
That is anything but the case with this show. From the moment the doors open to the moment the DJ sets off the afterparty music, the feeling of pride, appreciation, and shared company stays the focus of the experience. I have not had much exposure to the Q Brothers and their previous works but I agree with the accolades they have received. The discernment with the texts juxtaposed with current pop culture and, more importantly, current events, makes for a refreshing take on the classic.
Some of my favorite moments are raw, live, and unpredictable — akin to an SNL taping. The hamming up of Tiny Tim’s multiple diseases, the clean and compelling shifts through the gratuitous number of characters by means of a simple wig, and the smart, fluent flow of lyrical rhymes that pace organically with each character that speaks all stir into a festive punch that keeps the kickback party going.
The production is full of controversial references that the creative team never back down from. Appropriation of culture, political satire, and religious parody are some of the fodder you can expect to experience and those who are quickly offended may miss the deeper meaning of the comical commentary being made. However, in that, the story stays true to the main concept that redemption is earned from the truly learned self. Ultimately, the core power of A CHRISTMAS CAROL is to explore the power of appreciation and there is not a beat unstudied in their venture.
Saving the best for the last, the new Yard theater space opens up a world of shock and awe throughout the show. The versatility of the scenes is obviously simplistic and the transitions are smooth and effortless. However, the most jaw-dropping aspect of the show was the intricate light show from the lobby entrance to the three-story theater, complete with a bar and dancing space. To say the very least, it was, quite literally, lit. Scott Davis and Jesse Klug pack all of the holiday spirit and design into one room to give that overwhelming feeling of looking up into the core if a lit Christmas tree.
Scrooge or not, many can find something to love about the return of a Q Brothers famed adaptation. I’ll be looking forward to seeing their next project.
Q Brothers CHRISTMAS CAROL runs through December 31st. For more information visit chicagoshakes.com.