(Thru June 20th)
By Omphile Molusi
At Chicago Shakespeare Upstairs Theater
Review by Alan Bresloff
Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier is truly a special entertainment center for Chicago theater audiences. In addition to doing Shakespeare’s works and other classic , each year they present their Worlds Stage Series, bringing theater from the world to Chicago, exposing audiences here to new and innovative theater. To start this season off, from South Africa, the amazing “Itsoseng” created and acted by Omphile Molusi in their upstairs “studio” theater. The title is the township where Molusi grew up and in his story we learn a great deal about what took place in Africa during the period from 1993 into this century. A story of politics and how the politicians made life miserable for the community they served, or did they?
Molusi’s story is both comic and sad as he tells of the closing and destruction of the shopping center that allowed his community to have employment and a place to buy the goods they needed. He also speaks of his childhood sweetheart, who for many years he saw as something other than he remembered her. He was one of the people who felt that the change in government would benefit the people and always hoped and dreamed that he was right. As the years pass, and nothing changed, he still had his dreams that it would change and that once again, Itsoseng would be a place to live, work and raise a family, but this was never to be. His great love, in order to survive through the turmoil after the riots, became a prostitute and had two children in order to get some financial relief. He still loved her and at the end they each proclaimed to the other that their love has survived. The only problem, one never makes it past that time.
This is a one man show filled with all of the emotions that make for theater- 75 minutes of pure storytelling with great body language on an almost bare stage. Molusi takes on all the personas of the characters he tells us of and only lights, props and a single trunk are used to assist. The original production was staged by Tina Johnson and I am sure that the adjustments made to this very intimate space upstairs at CST made the production even more intimate allowing us, the audience, to feel as if he is speaking to each one of us, rather than an audience of 180-200 people. His energy and force- special and the love story that he tells, for his childhood sweetheart, his family and his country are all brought to our attention. The story is based on fact and will serve as a lesson in modern history for all of us. In addition, it is a story that may belong in many other countries, where politicians make promises to make things better for their residents, but just keep putting it off. It speaks to our visions and dreams as well as our hopes- despite events that we are forced to endure, we cannot give up because if we do, they win.
“Itsoseng” will continue at the upstairs theater at CST through June 20th with performances as follows:
Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m.
Sundays at 3 p.m.
Date Reviewed: June 8, 2010
Tickets range from $28-$38 and are available at the box office, by phone at 312-595-5600 or online at www.chicagoshakes.com