Pill Hill

pill hill
Pill Hill by Samuel L Kelley

By Samuel L. Kelley

Produced by eta Creative Arts Foundation

Art imitates life

It is always a shame to see a bundle of potential never fully realized. This is a major theme of Pill Hill, and sadly the case with this production. A fine ensemble of actors in a wonderful facility are set back by a sub par script and unfocused direction.

The title refers to an affluent south side neighborhood where those who own property have “made it”. Set in Chicago between 1973 and 1983, Pill Hill focuses on six African-American friends who all work in the local steel mill. The mill, a mantra of hope and doom used in the play, gives the illusion of a steady work but is only a hub for cutbacks and broken dreams. It was frightening how much these circumstances mirrored our current economy. Joe, the central character, has the dream but lacks the initiative to move up the ladder in or out of the mill. His friends see the writing on the wall and try to help him realize his potential, but ultimately Joe is his own worst enemy.


Playwright Samuel L. Kelley has an interesting premise, but does not stray from the path of obvious. Within the first fifteen minutes I knew where the play was going, but it took over two hours to get to an undeserved climax. Director Aaron Todd Douglas, inspired enthusiastic ensemble work, but did very little to fix the writing flaws. Kelley writes character types (the nerd, the old timer, the fallen athlete, the family man), and they are directed to be heightened stereotypes as seen in a 70’s sitcom.

I was excited to see Pill Hill because of the track record(s) of eta and Aaron Todd Douglas. Pill Hill is entertaining, but does not provide the stimulation to justify a $30 ticket.

Not Recommended

Chris Arnold

eta Creative Arts Foundation, Chicago IL, www.etacreativearts.org or call (773) 752-3955, tickets are $30 (with reduced rates for groups, seniors, students), Thursday-Saturday nights at 8pm, Sundays at 3&7pm, running time is 2 hours & 30 minutes with one ten-minute intermission. “2 for 1” are Thursdays at 8 and Sundays at 7.eta Creative Arts Foundation is located at 7558 S. South Chicago Avenue. Through August 9.