HOBO KING Gives a Heartbeat and Voice to Forgotten Homeless Community

HOBO KING Gives a Heartbeat and Voice to Forgotten Homeless Community

(L-R) LaMarr J. Kidd (DoodleBug) and Kyle Smith (Lazy Boy) in Congo Square’s HOBO KING by Javon Johnson.

Review: HOBO KING at Congo Square Theatre

By Naima Dawson

Congo Square Theatre drops a world premiere that forces us to reevaluate humanity and call into question our accountability in the movement to resist against those who create fear, separatism, and any form of discrimination. HOBO KING, written by Ensemble Member Javon Johnson and Directed by Ensemble Member Anthony Irons, calls into question the bully culture of a city’s government and police officers that is bestowed upon an already vulnerable homeless community. When a homeless man, Lazy Boy (Kyle Smith), is wrongfully slain by a police officer for sleeping on the streets, his comrades begin to worry if they will be next.

HOBO KING sets out to give a voice to the most visible, yet invisible population known to mankind. Micro families often develop inside of many homeless communities, and such is the case in HOBO KING, where the characters have formed a family nucleus to help them survive their circumstances. After the death of Lazy Boy, a few members of his makeshift family set out to fight the government’s new laws that further alienate and discriminate against the homeless people. Though the task seems daunting to the charismatic group, it is Slim (Edgar Sanchez) who encourages them to fight in the memory of their lost friend. Slim, who is trying to pick-up the pieces of a life lost in the ruins of Hurricane Katrina motivates the lively group to organize and resist against the government. Edgar Sanchez’s persona allows him to naturally deliver words in a manner that immediately resonates= with his listeners. His cadence brings power and impact to Johnson’s words.

As the group embarks on their quest to “fight the power,” they set out to anoint their friend Preacher Man (Lyle Miller) as their Hobo King. However, it is met with much opposition, as Preacher Man must first win the battle of his own fears before he can become the voice of the people.

This production demonstrates how so much of society has learned to blindly coexist with the homeless population. I wonder how many of us stop to consider the lives of each homeless person we encounter. Do we consider the circumstances that force a person to surrender their life to the unforgiving and often brutal life on the street? Our streets in Chicago pulsate with cafes, restaurants, nightclubs, retail shops, entertainment, and an enormous homeless population. The rebuilding and reshaping our city’s government continues to outcast and penalize our homeless population.

HOBO KING gives a heartbeat and voice to the forgotten homeless community. This is a great play to start the conversation of how we can help in providing resources to our ever growing homeless population.

HOBO KING plays through March 5th.

About author

Naima Dawson

Naima Dawson is a published author, Chicago playwright, and professor. Her career accomplishments cover more than 20 years in Arts Entertainment. Her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Columbia College Chicago and her Master of Education from DePaul University solidifies her ability to bridge the two worlds between Arts and Education. She is the writer and producer of Your Call! Late Night Improv & Sketch Comedy for Grown Folks, as seen in production at the Apollo Theater and The Mercury Theater.