Sisterhood, Music, and Damn Good Hair.
A World Premiere.
By Marcus Gardley.
Directed by Chay Yew.
At Victory Gardens Biograph Theatre, Chicago.
Heartwarming slice-of-life drama an ode to South State Street in Chicago and lifelong friendship.
Playwright Marcus Gardley (The House That Will Not Stand, The Gospel of Lovingkindness, An Issue of Blood) has an understanding of Chicago and its people, especially the African-American woman. A Wonder In My Soul ( his finest play to date) he deals with two lifelong friends, their siblings and their loyal customer of their beauty shop that is being threatened by crime, gentrification and social change.
We meet Aberdeen Calumet (Greta Oglesby)a and Bell Grand Lake (Jacqueline Williams0 lifelong friends and co-owners of the beauty salon as they struggle with survival in 2008 just as Obama is being elected president. We witness the two smart-mouthed and cynically funny proprietors as they deal with life changing events. Filled with several speeches about the meaning and importance of hair to black women to thoughts on the importance of friendship and chasing one’s dreams to effects of community events to protect black teens from gang violence, A Wonder In My Soul is a Chekhov-styled comic-drama that weaves personal history with a beloved neighborhood.
Playwright Marcus Gardley uses R & B, jazz and Gospel songs nicely sung by Donica Lynn (Paulina), Camile Robinson (Young Birdi) and Jacqueline Williams, poetry with biting quips and sharp social commentary to paint a truthful, heartwarming glimpse into black life from the 60’s through 2008 in Mississippi and Chicago.
Often funny and painful, we see how, over time, friendships emerge and solidity is maintained despite different temperaments and social ideas. Using the beauty salon meeting place (think Steel Magnolias), a safe place to hear and render gossip and local events, woman have a place to be themselves. They can gossip, sing songs and rant about their problems and pain.
Playwright Gardley has developed fully unique and realistic characters with whom we empathize with and understand. How they deal with young community activist Lafayette (Jeffery Owen Freelon, Jr.), Bell’s son, is indicative how mothers of that time sometimes protected their sons.
A Wonder In My Soul is a most entertaining, often funny, wonderfully sung (not a musical but a play with songs) and a heartfelt drama about friendship, place and personal commitment as seen through social and political change. The dialogue is smart and witty and the acting is first class with Greta Oglesby and Jacqueline Williams leading the way. A Wonder In My Soul has heart and loads of soul! It is a wonderful “must see” play.
Date Reviewed: February 17, 2017.
For more info checkout the A Wonder In My Soul page at theatreinchicago.com.
At At Victory Gardens Biograph Theatre, 2433 N. Lincoln, Chicago, IL, call773-871-3000, www.victorygardens.org, tickets $15 – $60,Tuesdays – Fridays at 7:30 pm, Saturdays at 3 & 7:30 pm, Sundays at3 pm, running time is 2hours, 20 minutes with intermission, through March 12, 2017.