Pill Hill | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Pill Hill 

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Pill Hill, Chicago Theatre Company. It takes more than a plan to escape from a dead-end job, enjoy security and esteem, and live on "Pill Hill"--more properly Calumet Heights, whose nickname derives from its former population of white doctors. It's not even enough to have a direction. As the six black steelworkers who meet weekly for beer, cards, and fraternity in Samuel L. Kelley's Pill Hill demonstrate, it demands long-term vision, the strength to deal with setbacks and compromises, and the courage to take that first step toward realizing one's dream.

A play whose action consists solely of swapping confidences in a basement flat requires its cast to listen closely to one another if we're to believe in the choices their characters make during the pivotal decade represented, from 1973 to 1983. Fortunately, the Chicago Theatre Company exhibits the same award-winning ensemble work as it did when it premiered the play in 1994. Director Douglas Alan-Mann's team of intelligent actors infuses Kelly's spartan dialogue with an intensely focused conviction and a precisely timed harmony (though they're always sensitive to the grace notes). They transform what could have been mere sociological case studies into an immediate, universally recognizable microcosm populated by whole and complex human beings.

--Mary Shen Barnidge

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