WINDY CITY TIMES
||THEATER REVIEW It's Just Like Coming to Church (Welcome to the Church of YOU)
by Mary Shen Barnidge
This article shared 625 times since Sat Apr 2, 2022
Don't be fooled by the title. The Gospel of Jackie Taylor is not constructed on Old Rugged Crosses, Poor Wayfaring Strangers or Walks Through Lonesome Valleys. To be sure, there's a collection box at the entrance, but money doesn't grant you a VIP pass. On the contrary, the word most often repeated in the score's song lyrics is "LOVE"not erotic objectification, but the kind arising from acceptance of one's self, without which there can be no love for other creatures, mortal or divine.
Illustrating this parable for us are Pastor Preach, Deacon Jones and four choir singers appointed as today's storytellers ("griots," in West African parlance). Before hearing their evidence, however, we confront the infernal agent assigned to undermine our resilience in the face of adversity. This is Anxiety-and-Depression, who appears to us as a shrouded wraith (vaguely reminiscent of a sand warrior in Star Wars), but whom Preach's scolding soon reduces to feeble protests of "But I was just doing my job!"
Satan's representative having been banished, our four deponents proceed to share their testimoniestrans Michelle describes her struggle with society's narrow definitions of physical and spiritual gender. Ivory-complexioned Leah recalls being caught in the middle of her parents' quarrels over skin color. Lonely Maven musters the courage to step away from melancholy despair, while optimistic Will calls upon hope for the future. Even Assistant Pastor Jones recounts his tale of the night that a bullet did NOT have his name on it, introducing the possibility of his worthiness despite his past errorsand also a stirring rendition of Anthony Brown's hymn of gratitude, "Worth Saving."
What? You thought we were going to be sent home without some music to take with us? Is this a Joyful-Noise revue or an AA meeting? Our lessons are accompanied by such crossover sacred/secular anthems as Earth, Wind & Fire's "Shining Star" and Sly and the Family Stone's "Stand." Solo turns include Al Green's "God Blessed Our Love" (featuring a delicate Sam Cooke-styled under-melody); Stevie Wonder's syncopated, Caribbean-tinged "Tomorrow Robins Will Sing"; and an exhortation to "Love Yourself Until the End of Time" that Taylor herself composed.
Playgoers anticipating Black Ensemble Theater's customary splendor may be disappointed at the modesty of its first post-pandemic venture. The tailored choir robes boast no "Sister Act" dazzle, the dance choreography is minimal and the sight of roped-off seats facilitating social distancing evoke empty spaces even Robert Reddrick and his hard-working band cannot completely fill yet. It's up to the congregation in this church of YOU, then, to welcome the birth of a new dawnand if active worship is not within the boundaries of your previous liturgical experience, you have the vocal responders in attendance to provide instruction in expressive affirmation.
This article shared 625 times since Sat Apr 2, 2022
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