By Jason Tremblay’s
Directed by Tom Arvetis
Produced by Adventure Stage Chicago
At Vittum Theater
Chicago has lots of smaller theaters, many unknown and today I found myself at Adventure Stage Chicago located at 1012 Noble Street ( just North of Augusta at Milwaukee Avenue) for a World Premiere of Jason Tremblay’s “Katrina: The Girl Who Wanted Her Name Back”. This is a ninety minute play that takes place during the Hurricane Katrina period of time, following a young girl’s journey during the storm that shares her name. It is filled with obstacles that face her as she gets separated from her father and his search for her, despite all the obstacles placed before him. The show is filled with music and the “flavor” of New Orleans– the jazz, the people and the magic of a city that is celebrated by its traditions and its people.
The Theater company, Adventure Stage Chicago was founded to work with the neighborhood and to allow them to be able to express themselves through the arts and culture. While it has succeeded in bringing the community together, over its 10 years, it has become recognized for its imaginative and thought provoking works and this one would have to rank right up there as a true “think piece”. At the start of the show, the audience is asked to state what Katrina meant to them; what problems the people may have had because of the disaster and after the show, another discussion takes place with all the actors and musicians seated on the stage. Yes, musicians- after all, how could there be a story about New Orleans without music, its other language. In fact, the musicians are an integral part of the production- the sounds of the music replace the words we might expect and they do so with great force. Colby Beserra serves as co-Musical director and also composed the original music ( blending in with the true sounds of New Orleans) and under the co- direction of Mikhail Fiskel ( who also did the sound)and handles the keyboard, the five other musicians are tremendous talents:
Scott Anderson (Trumpet),Nick Broste (Trombone),Nate Lapine (Sax/clarinet),E.G. McDaniel ( Bass) and Rick Vitek ( Drums)- BRAVO!
Director Tom Aretis has put together a strong cast of mostly local actors to take us on this journey. Young Shakira Lavonne Carter is a delight to watch as Katrina and her father ,Big Daddy, deftly played by Eugene Parker. At the start of the storm ,as her father is nailing up the windows, she is asked to get some of the neighbors to the church for safety. Although she doesn’t want to do this as they declined to help her when she had asked for help from them, she does take on the chore of escorting the two older handicapped neighbors, Beulah (Carolyn Nelson) and Thibeaux( Peter Verdico) to the church but they do not make it that far- they end up in a deserted dance hall where she meets the Angel of Death’s Messenger, Stalebread ( Dan Cox) who only she can see. He is seeking the next person to have their soul taken so that he can rest his soul.
The story gets a little complicated at this point, but because Katrina has given up her name, he only has numbers to work from and the balance of the play is her trying to rescue these people and find her father, while her father is doing likewise. At the church, where the National Guard has set up headquarters.Gustavo ( a strong performance by Ivan Vega) tells Big Daddy he cannot leave the church, but Big Daddy convinces him that he must find his daughter and Gustavo joins him. As they pursue their search and as Katrina does likewise, we see how the storm and the struggle for survival brings people
of opposite views and backgrounds together. The city of New Orleans, despite its destruction has soul and heart as do the people of this city and their magic and fire comes alive in this story of its people. The one other roles is that of the Apparition, who take son many faces and personalities, played by Amber Starr Friendly- she is the Angel of Death, Thibeaux’s late wife and Katrina’s late mother who makes Katrina see that her name is not tarnished by the storm.
This is an educational experience and is strongly recommended for ages 8 and up (4th through 8th graders), but enjoyable for older audiences as well. It is nice to see productions that families can attend together and that will bring on discussion after- this does that perfectly.
“Katrina” will run through May 9th at the Vittum Theater located at 1012 N. Noble Street with performances as follows: Weekdays- (Mostly for school groups, but some individual tickets are available) April 9th,14th,16th,21st,23rd,28th,30th- May1st,5th,7th,12th,14th,15th,19th,20th and 21st, 10:30 a.m., Weekends: April 18th,19th,25th,26th May 2nd,3rd and 9th at 2:00 p.m., Tickets are $17 for adults, $12 for children 14 and under and are available by calling 312-342-4141, or online at www.adventurestage.org
[mappress address=”1012 Noble Street, chicago, IL” ]