Warm on the Coolin’ Board

MPAACT

Directed by Marie Cisco

produced by MPAACT

At the Greenhouse Theatre, Chicago

Hauntingly beautiful saga of letting go of life and it’s attachments is a gem

I must confess that I am among the Chicago reviewers who somehow don’t  cover the terrific work of MPAACT like we do other local theatre companies. Shame on us! Once again, I was impressed by MPAACT’s latest work – Warm on the Coolin’ Board. It is a well written, expertly stage and nicely performed tale of life, death and out attachment to those who have left us.

MPAACT

Playwright Shepsu Aakhus has two sets: one depicting a body coolin’ on a board that looks like the lid of a coffin, the other is the front steps of an abandoned house in the South Chicago Roseland neighborhood.  On the board is a lifeless man covered in a large rag. We see two women (Krystal Metcalf & Olivia Charles)  chanting African melodies for the dead while another woman, Penelope (Deanna Reed-Foster) sings the man’s song as she brings the man, Carter (Darren Jones)  to consciousness. Add the working of a female voodoo practitioner, Nailah (Medina Perine) who dumps her bone-like dice to examine the fate of Carter.  These wonderful scenes contain a vivid look into the world of African mysticism and Voodoo that still influences the contemporary African-American experience.

We later learn that one of the influences as to the restlessness of those departed is the disruption of their graves in the Burr Ridge Cemetery south of Chicago where many African-American were buried. It seems that many corpses were thrown into mass graves, buried on top of one another or chopped into piles of bones. The news of such treatment of the dead bothers many including Day (Andre Teamer) who visited the grave of his departed mother  Penelope monthly so he could connect spiritually with her. His younger brother Brian (Brian Keys) dropped out of college and now works with his older brother and father figure in the family business: stripping abandoned houses of all valuable elements including copper wire and piping.  Day want his brother Brian to join him on his visits to their mother’s grave especially now that her grave’s location is now in question.

MPAACT

This well plotted script is a myth infused saga of how we connect with others including the dead as well as the struggle to hold on to people and things that keep us grounded. It has elements of redemption and letting go in order to move on to the next stage in life. The haunting symbolism sets the tone most effectively. This is an engaging story that takes us into a world and a set of beliefs that few of us know about quite effectively. Deanna Reed-Foster, Darren Jone and Andre Teamer led a most dedicated cast into the world of African mysticism and voodoo particularly how it can influence our modern perceptions. That journey is intoxicating and well work out involvement.  Get to the Greenhouse Theatre to experience MPAACT production of Warm on the Coolin Board-you’ll add MPAACT’s shows to your ‘must see’ list. I know I have.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: October 25, 2013

For more info checkout the Warm on the Coolin’ Board page at theatreinchicago.com

At the Greenhorn Theatre, 2257 N. Collin, Chicago, IL, call 773-404-7336, www.mpaact.org, tickets $15 – $25,  Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours including intermission, through November 24, 2013

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