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Theater Wed Feb 27 2013
Collaboractions' new and original production, Crime Scene: A Chicago Anthology creates a bridge between entertainment, social justice and public service -- there is sophisticated lighting and choreography, touching musical interludes, comic relief and captivating, hyper-dramatic moments that we expect from theater, but to call this play entertainment is almost blasphemy. Luckily for us, it is still entertaining. Crime Scene has a clear agenda, though -- to call attention to Chicago's serious and escalating crime problem by re-enacting three key homicides that took place in the city over the past few years.
"The inspiration from Crime Scene came from a need to create work connected to important issues in our community", explained director Anthony Moseley. "I believe theater can serve a critical role in addressing the issue of violence by offering Chicagoans a transcendent artistic experience that forces us to confront and question the core elements of senseless violence."
Collaboraction has a knack at creating effects live in the theater that we usually associate with film -- things I hadn't imagined being possible on stage, like slow motion bits that hold up against The Matrix -- and Crime Scene creates these effects magnificently. With very few props and stage decorum, just some clever lighting tricks and some serious school-of-fish-like synchronicity, the actors are able to convincingly transport us from a front porch to a street riot to a prison lunchroom in record time.
In addition to being magical, the acting in Crime Scene is touching and poignant -- it feels like the issues being addressed in the play are very real to the actors, and they should be -- they live here, too, and a semi-formal mingling session before the show between actors and audience sheds light on their personal connections to the city's history of segregation and violence. Although the acting is all-around good, it is the women who really shine in Crime Scene -- a particularly inspiring monologue performed by Patrese D. McClain comes to mind. It's always nice to see women playing diverse roles with serious conviction and the chops to back it up.
Crime Scene feels very much like a production for Chicago by Chicago -- it's no Wicked, there aren't likely to be busses posted out front of the Flat Iron building shuffling tourists in anytime soon. That doesn't seem to be the aim. And even if each and every audience member doesn't go on to make sweeping changes in their communities as a direct result of seeing the play, positive seeds are planted, and it is clear that the more people who see the show, the better. The partners and co-devisers are actively looking for ways to get the show into diverse venues across the city to broaden the audience and get a discussion going, by the way, as the program points out. Between Crime Scene and This American Life's recent series profiling Harper High school (also recommended), it's refreshing and encouraging to see the conversation broadening from the usual circles like Ceasefire and PTA meetings and filtering into local art and entertainment, where new perspectives and ideas come into play. It's about time.
Crime Scene: A Chicago Anthology runs through April 7, 2013 at Collaboraction on the 3rd floor of the Flat Iron Arts Building (1579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) in Wicker Park. The show is recommended for ages 15 and up due to violence and mature content, and is followed each night by a facilitated discussion. Tickets are $25; $15 for students, educators and industry. View the show schedule and purchase tickets online at collaboraction.org or call 312-226-9633.