Leola | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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After a long and successful career in day care, Ruby L. Oliver made this, her first feature, in her late 40s. Now receiving its world premiere, it's a remarkable debut: assured, highly focused, surprisingly upbeat considering the number of problems that it addresses without flinching--and conceivably the best low-budget Chicago independent that I've seen. Set in contemporary Chicago, it concerns a 17-year-old girl from the ghetto whose plans for the future are jeopardized when she finds herself pregnant. In addition, her brothers are gradually drifting into a life of crime, her mother is having difficulty maintaining a day-care center without a license, and her stepfather is an alcoholic and philanderer. The plot line is concentrated and purposeful, and the cast--including Carol E. Hall, Audrey Morgan (particularly impressive as the mother), Earnest Rayford, Andre Robinson, and Kearo Johnson--is uniformly fine. In addition to writing, directing, producing, and financing the film, Oliver is also credited with casting, served as set decorator and location manager, and sang as well as wrote the lyrics to the film's theme song. (Film Center, Saturday, August 5, 8:00, and Sunday, August 6, 6:00)

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