The Black White Love Play: The story of Chaz and Roger Ebert at Black Ensemble Theater

A beautiful love story unfolded at yesterday’s world premiere opening of “The Black White Love Play” at Chicago’s Black Ensemble Theater (BET)–that could easily be sub-titled the Chaz and Roger Ebert life story.

They were different in many ways.

rogerKevin_Pollack2-1

Kevin Pollack as Roger Ebert.

He, Roger, a white man.

Rashada Dawan as Chaz Ebert

Rashada Dawan as Chaz Ebert

She, Chaz, a black woman.

He…an only child.

She…a member of a large family.

He grew up in Urbana—a small town in central Illinois.

She grew up on Chicago’s highly populated west side.

He a Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic.

She  a trial attorney.

Yet even with all these outward differences they were alike in the ways that counted.

Their unlikely love story was the real deal.

“The Black White Love Play” written and directed by Black Ensemble Theater Founder and CEO Jackie Taylor tells the story of Chaz and Roger Ebert, detailing their life together through their courtship, marriage and Roger’s untimely death.

The chemistry between the leads was amazing. Kevin Pollack as Roger was able to capture many of Ebert’s mannerisms making for a very believable Roger.

Rashada Dawan looked so much like Chaz that she fooled many in the audience into believing she was the real Chaz Ebert when she appeared on stage to introduce the story.

The real Chaz. Chaz Ebert, wife of the late Roger Ebert.

The real Chaz. Chaz Ebert, wife of the late Roger Ebert.

Dawan did a wonderful job portraying Chaz–catching her spirit, sense of humor and character. She also has a powerful voice which brought many in the audience to their feet after hearing her beautifully executed rendition of Kris Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make It Through the Night.”

The production features the always outstanding music and dance that is a trademark of all BET productions. The six-piece live orchestra that sits above the stage rather than in a pit so all can see was, once again, outstanding under the direction of Robert Reddrick.

In addition to the wonderful leads, a talented chorus consisting of Evelyn Danner, Rueben Echoles,Porsche King, Robbin Major, Jhardon Dishon Milton, Matthew T. Payne, Jessica Seals, Kyle Smith, Sally Staats and Qween Wicks–told the story in the tradition of Ancient Greek Theater.

Where the show was good was when the story concentrated on the give and take between Chaz and Roger–their mutual affection, sense of humor, deep caring and even their differences.

The show missed opportunities by going astray on issues not related to Chaz and Roger’s inspiring story.

Rating: 2 and 1/2 stars.

Location: Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center, 4450 N. Clark Street.

Tickets:  $55 on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturday matinees; and $65 on Fridays, Saturday evenings, Sunday matinees.  A 10% discount for students, seniors, and groups. Buy online or phone at (773) 769-4451. Now through November 15, 2015.

Running time: 2 hours

Parking: Metered parking on Clark St. or valet parking.

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