#109. Chicago = the C-word. Capone, crime, corruption. The Windy City is known for big blustering windbags. We are the city selling the end results by questionable methods. Political, judicial, criminal, multiple realms of our hometown have gotten a reputation for getting what we want through whatever means available. Chicago is, The Wrigley Building. Chicago is, The Union Stockyard. Chicago is, police brutality. Chicago is…
TimeLine Theatre presents the world premiere of MY KIND OF TOWN. Otha is on death row. He says he only stole tires. The police say he confessed to three murders. Why the discrepancy? Otha says he was tortured into a guilty plea. A decade later, a prominent law firm takes an interest in his pro bono case. The re-investigation spurs a demotion and a suicide. Circumstantial evidence points to another suspect. Other felons are coming forward with similar abuse statements. Who is telling the truth? The police? The State’s Attorney? Otha? MY KIND OF TOWN is the most engrossing interrogation a civilian can experience.
Investigative journalist turned playwright, John Conroy fictionalizes Chicago history to tell the three-decade-long police scandal. What sets this apart from any Law/Order episode is Conroy’s multiple victim perspective. It’s not just about what happens to Otha. It’s about the impact on his parents and his kid. And on the flipside, we see the detective’s wife and even his sister-in-law wrestling with truth and justice. The rippling complexities make for a fascinating story. Under the masterful direction of Nick Bowling, the audience is sucked into trying to solve this crime… these crimes. Bowling uses a mega talented cast to dole out information and misinformation. The audience naturally roots for each character to do ‘the right thing.’ But what *that* really is gets murkier as the stories evolve. Bowling effectively stages split scenes. Sometimes even at the same table, actors play out parallel scenes in different locales. The proximity of contrasting conflict is a powerful connectivity of the overall saga. I was completely transfixed in seeing how this play played out.
Part of the captivation was the volatile performance by Charles Gardener (Otha). Gardener is a hot-tempered, non-compliant inmate. He perfectly represents victims of the failed system. He is untrusting and unpleasant. He is his worst enemy! In moments of raw emotion, Gardener confronts his father or describes his own abuse. Later, Gardener plays his lighthearted teenage son. Wow, what a range! Gardener dominates this stage. The whole cast is sublime. Alliances build and break organically. It looks like real life especially if your son was a thug or your husband brutalizes people. Another standout is Ora Jones (Otha’s mother). Jones nervously confronts the State’s Attorney with all the authenticity of a mom on the edge. The scene is a potent exchange between Jones and Maggie Kettering (Maureen). Watching Kettering transform from softie newbie to hardcore establishment is a heartbreaker.
I’ve seen many shows at TimeLine Theatre. This is my favorite one ever. Conroy’s twists shock and disturb. And Bowling’s cast makes corruption a family affair. It’s a brilliant mixture of crime and human drama! One show that won’t let you down, it’s MY KIND OF TOWN.
Clueing me into a prop I missed, M-Vo describes it with ‘Chicago captured compellingly.’
Running Time: Two hours and fifteen minutes includes an intermission.
At TimeLine Theatre, 615 W. Wellington
Written by John Conroy
Directed by Nick Bowling
Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30pm
Fridays at 8pm
Saturdays at 4pm and 8pm
Sundays at 2pm
Thru July 29th
Buy Tickets at www.timelinetheatre.com