Lifeline Theatre presents
The Blue Shadow
Written by Nambi E. Kelley
With Xavier Kelley
Music and lyrics by Joe Plummer
Directed by Ilesa Duncan
Thru May 2nd
Running time: Sixty minutes with no intermission
Be trustworthy, kind, thankful, yourself, and don't ever give up! These are lessons to be learned in Lifeline Theatre's world premiere family musical, The Blue Shadow. Playwright Nambi E. Kelley, with the assistance of her third grader son Xavier, uses a classroom setting and a diverse student body to illustrate her tale of self identity. Shadow is the new girl in school. She doesn't know who she is. Her classmates tell fables from their ancestry to help her discover her true self. The Blue Shadow is a multi-cultural friendship 101 taught through puppets, shadow boxing, and singing. It's an interactive family friendly course with lion dance lessons, water shooting glasses and the world falling from the sky.
The high energy cast is a bunch of adults playing kids. They jump start the show by interacting with the audience in character. At first, I thought Dawn Pryor (Zuri) is just an overly friendly audience member. Her enthusiasm and petite stance make her a believable precocious 9 year old. The rest of the cast have to work a little harder to go young ...and they do! Miguel Nunez
(Ernesto) works up a sweat in his bopping around in multiple roles. From woodsman to stepmother to old witch to bunion man, Nunez keeps it lively and entertaining. The first visual of Mallory Nees (Roksana), I am not convinced she can carry off "little girl." She wins me over in her hilarious combo of valley girl and dolly puppet master.
Under the direction of Ilsea Duncan, the show is five plays within one play. It's the variety of content paced with continuous movement that works for the younger set. Duncan uses every possible space to make the action interesting. Camille Kuthrell's choreography combined with Joe Plummer's music is fun and playful and includes a nod out to Thriller zombie dancing. For my particular show, there are two minor mishaps that might interfere with a child's learning retention. The cast is singing about "being yourself" and the visual says "be thankful." Later, Nunez mistakenly holds "North America" while singing about "South America." Luckily, there isn't a quiz at the end and this production easily scores an A-.
WAITING FOR THE SHOW
Arriving in Rogers Park on hopefully the last snow-slush fest of the winter, I exit the Red Line with thirty minutes until curtain. I decide to dine at the Noon Hour Grill, 6930 N. Glenwood. It is ½ block from the theatre. A throw back in time, Noon Hour Grill is a small joint with tables and chairs from the seventies. It's completely empty on a Saturday at 12:30pm. The host-server-chef greets me from her newspaper and quickly gets me a glass of ice water. The menu is a combination of Asian and Vegan hipster with traditional noodle dishes alongside tofu omelets. I play it safe with an egg, cheese and ham sandwich. The only other person during my stint gets the same but the carryout version. From his banter, I know he's a regular and relax at my safe pick. My sandwich arrives on wheat bread. It tastes as "homemade" as you can get in a restaurant. The whole experience feels a bit home style if my mother was a tiny Asian woman who fusses over me to ensure my experience is a happy one. And the bill is $5 total! My smiling surrogate mother sends me off in the world to be trustworthy, kind, thankful, myself, and to never give up.
Lifeline photography courtesy of Suzanne Plunkett