Not About Nightingales | Raven Theatre | Theater & Performance | Chicago Reader
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Dean La Prairie

When: Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through June 4 2017
Price: $43, $38 seniors and teachers, $21 students and military
Tennessee Williams's flawed but historically significant 1938 drama was written when he was 27—six years before he broke through with his stunning The Glass Menagerie—but not produced until 60 years later, when it came to Broadway at the urging of Vanessa Redgrave. It's the story of a group of penitentiary inmates who stage a hunger strike to protest their inhumane treatment by the corrupt warden and his brutal guards (including the ultimate punishment—internment in a 150-degree boiler room known as "Klondike"). Recalling such 30s films as I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang and Each Dawn I Die, it's a sometimes awkwardly preachy but still potent protest against a callous, abusive incarceration system that has long since abandoned any pretense of social rehabilitation. Raven Theatre's well-acted production, directed by Michael Menendian, effectively juggles the play's elements of harsh realism and dreamlike expressionism, using stylized movement choreographed by Breon Arzell and eerily atmospheric lighting designed by Diane D. Fairchild. The cast—including Chuck Spencer as the warden, Brandon Greenhouse as a conscience-stricken "canary" (jailhouse informant), and Sophia Menendian as the warden's secretary, an outsider who finds herself trapped in a hellish underworld—is excellent. —Albert Williams

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