(front, left to right) Latrel Crawford, Carolyn Nelson, Almedia Lee Exum and Monette McLin. Photo by Jonathan L. Green.
Review: TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION at Sideshow Theatre
By Bec Willett
Perhaps it’s just art naturally reflecting reality, but in the short time since the election, there seems to be a refreshing and exciting move in Chicago theater towards work that expects an audience to think. Joining this movement is Sideshow Theatre’s TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION, which asks hard questions but refuses to give you easy answers.
In a dense sixty minutes, this play covers thirty years, five different countries, and five storylines of people living with the unimaginable: death, war, rape, and the deprivation of truth. These stories are told through vignettes, all taking place in a holding room. Initially, the nature of debbie tucker green’s [sic] writing glimpses toward emotional intensity but limited context makes it difficult to grasp onto the thread of each story. This soon resolves itself, making you acutely aware of the experience of the characters who have been given such little information about the violence inflicted upon them.
Director Jonathan L. Green is the hero of this production. His unwavering vision and precise execution are present throughout both the performances and design. The decision to place the entire cast on stage for the duration of the play is a powerful one: they actively watch the events as an omnipotent representation of the magnitudes of people deprived of the truth. From Green’s cast there are some stand out performances – Jennifer Matthews’ Irish mother and Netta Walker’s specter of a schoolgirl come to mind. Yet the true strength of the performance is the expertly crafted ensemble of twenty-two actors. Integrating a variety of levels of acting expertise and maturity, Green’s thoroughness and specificity have made this ensemble a tightly-knit machine that tells their stories with unapologetic intention.
Under Green’s vision the design is articulate and accomplished. Yu Shibagaki’s scenic design epitomizes this. Richly textured, the earth-toned holding room she has created manages to believably serve as existing in all five different countries and time periods. Its graffitied patina and brutalist architecture evoke both a war torn building and the sterility of an institutional holding room. Highlighted by Jared Gooding’s lighting, this stage is a picture of beauty and suffering.
It’s been 24 hours since I saw Sideshow Theatre’s TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION and still my head is buzzing with questions: What is right and what is wrong? Which acts of violence are irreconcilable? Who suffers most – those that die or those that are left behind? I don’t know that we can ever have the answers but it is the asking of these questions that changes how we approach the world.