Black Pearl Sings! | Northlight Theatre | Theater & Performance | Chicago Reader
This is a past event.
When: Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through Feb. 19 2012
Price: $10-$60
E. Faye Butler's Pearl does indeed sing—but Frank Higgins's play sags. Building loosely on the true story of American musicologist John Avery Lomax and his "discovery" of Huddie "Lead Belly" Ledbetter in a Louisiana jail, Higgins turns Lomax into Susannah—a frustrated Depression-era academic pounding on the glass ceiling and hoping that her own full-throated discovery, Pearl, will provide the sledgehammer she needs to secure grants and fame. The self-centered-white-liberal-vs.-salty-woman-of-the-earth dynamic Higgins enforces between Susannah and Pearl grows wearisome. (A scene where Susannah wants newly paroled Pearl to wear prison stripes onstage is particularly groanworthy.) But when Butler sings in a voice steeped in pain and defiance, all dramaturgical clunkiness recedes into the background. —Kerry Reid

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