Stoops | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader


ETA Creative Arts Foundation.

Slice-of-life dramas about the everyday joys and tragedies of a group of neighborhood kids are as enduring as the lifelong friendships they detail; the plot line of Crystal Rhodes's Stoops is comfortably familiar. Three African American girls in a poor but close-knit community come of age during the 60s and 70s, evolving through first loves, senseless deaths, rocky marriages, prejudices and pregnancies, and their own turbulent but abiding friendships with one another. The slow dawning of class and race consciousness is nicely detailed, each young woman interpreting loyalty to friends, race, and neighborhood in a different way. Also entertaining are their ever-shifting relationships with men (only one actually appears in the play), whom they use as tools, excuses, or triumphs within their triangular friendship.

This sort of play is easily brought to its knees by even one questionable performance, but fortunately director Runako Jahi has cast three very likable and very different actresses in the principal roles. TaRon C. Patton, Gina Taliaferro, and Maura Gale bring polish and an infectious zest to these occasionally shopworn characters, and Jahi's brisk pace never oversentimentalizes them. Also excellent is Jonathan Bradley Wafer as the bad boy who makes good, the token male in this updated urban Little Women.

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