I Feel With My Hands | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

I Feel With My Hands 

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I Feel With My Hands, at Gerri's Palm Tavern. Fernando Jones loves to tell stories about the blues, combining theater and live music. And he often does it well. The idea behind his newest work is intriguing: three women embody the many faces of the blues in a shared character, Betty Louise, who's also a metaphor for African-American consciousness. Kimm Beavers, Constance Rice, and Ebony McLaurin confidently deliver their tale, declaring at one point, "If you don't like the blues, you've got a hole in your soul." They not only define and defend the heritage of the blues, they explore the experiences of slavery and life in the southern United States that have shaped black culture.

This is a provocative production offering poetry to a blues beat, but it's not polished, and its shortcomings go beyond what one might expect of opening-night jitters. There are technical glitches--lights that don't work--and the actresses and three band members are hesitant about cues. Only 35 minutes long, the piece is short on music (one number was in Jones's last play). Even the overarching concept could be clearer and better fleshed out. Fortunately, I Feel With My Hands is worthy of more work.

--Jenn Goddu


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