Review: The Shipment (Red Tape Theatre)

| September 17, 2018

Marcus D. Moore, Sheldon Brown, Eric Gerard, Kiayla Ryann and Hunter Bryant star in The Shipment, Red Tape Theatre

  

  

      

The Shipment 

Written by Young Jean Lee
at The Ready, 4546 N. Western (map)
thru Oct 13  |  tix: FREE  |  more info
        
     


    
  

Stellar cast explores the destructive power of racial stereotypes

  

Marcus D. Moore, Sheldon Brown, Eric Gerard, Kiayla Ryann and Hunter Bryant star in The Shipment, Red Tape Theatre

    
Red Tape Theatre presents
    
The Shipment

Review by Duane Barnes

I saw The Shipment with two companions and we left the theater asking each other, “What did we just see? What was the author saying?” This play, written by Young Jean Lee, a Korean-American playwright, director and filmmaker, is designed not just to entertain but also give your brain some stimulation and your eyes some admiration for the work being done on stage.

Sheldon Brown stars in The Shipment by Young Jean Lee, Red Tape Theatre ChicagoThe viewer is perplexed early on for, as the play progresses, no shipment arrives – due to the play’s title, we’re expecting a delivery of some sort. But, as we come to realize, that’s because the “shipment” was already here – it arrived nearly 400 years ago and continued to arrive for another  250 years. Yes, African slaves, almost 11 million of them, were the “shipment” to the New World. And from that day forward, Whites have draped Blacks in stereotypes, stereotypes brought to life by a small but stellar cast for the audience to face and contemplate.

Directed by Wardell Julius Clark, and assisted by Sydney Charles, the pace of the action is quick and sharp. In the first of a series of scenes, it opens with a minstrel show, Black performers, dancing and singing, happy and enjoying life, almost robot-like, a stereotype often fostered by white performers in blackface to give a white audience laughs and assurances that Black people were happy, singing and dancing. But not very bright.

Next up were the dealers in drugs, conducting their business as usual with gunplay and murder. Another stereotype played out on television and films for us. Following that came the in-your-face, black, angry stand-up comedian with his dirty mouth speaking sex, drugs and obscenities, talking about the world and the White folk he sees in it.

Marcus D Moore, Sheldon Brown, Eric Gerard, Hunter Bryant and Kiayla Ryann star in The ShipmentMarcus D Moore, Hunter Bryant and Kiayla Ryann star in The Shipment, Red Tape TheatreSheldon Brown and Hunter Bryant star in The Shipment, Red Tape Theatre Chicago

Then a scene with three characters, done in silence for the greater part of the action that hushes the audience to the point you can hear the proverbial pin drop. Standing motionless on their raised platform, locking eyes with each member of the audience, one can feel the hate of the slaves, standing on the block at a wharf in Charleston, South Carolina, or at the slave auction in New Orleans. Powerful!

I won’t spoil the ending but the last scene, a stereotype of another kind, became the clincher for me and my companions, and the last line is one that stayed with us as we walked down the street to our car. It will stay with you as well.

“Bravo” and a deserved standing ovation goes to the players Sheldon Brown, Hunter Bryant, Eric Gerard, Marcus D. Moore and Kiayla Ryann. They’re a talented ensemble and there’s never a false note in their performances.

I find it marvelous that behind-the-scenes support can be so creative and add so much pleasure to the viewer. Case in point: working in a very confined space, choreographer Breon Arzell created movement for his characters that supported the dialogue, and sometimes no dialogue. Movement and perhaps even no movement were effective. A malleable set design by Joy Ahn provides space for the production to bloom, and sensitive lighting by Daniel Friedman support the mood to perfection. And behind the scenes, stage manager Michelle Altman and her assistant, Chris Wayne Lyons, keep the action running smoothly. My advice? Don’t miss this!

  
Rating: ★★★★
  

The Shipment continues through October 13th at The Ready, 4546 N. Western Ave. (map), with performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays 7pm.  Tickets are free, but should be reserved online through EventBrite.com  More information at RedTapeTheatre.org(Running time: 70 minutes without intermission)

Marcus D Moore, Sheldon Brown, Eric Gerard, Kiayla Ryann and Hunter Bryant star in The ShipmentEric Gerard, Marcus D. Moore, Sheldon Brown, Kiayla Ryann and Hunter Bryant star in The Shipment

Photos by Austin Oie


  

artists

cast

Sheldon Brown, Hunter Bryant, Eric Gerard, Marcus D. Moore, Kiayla Ryann

behind the scenes

Wardell Julius Clark (director), Sydney Charles (associate director, music director), Kyle Land (producer), Jenn Thompson (line producer, production manager), Max Truax (artistic director), Michelle Altman (stage manager), Chris Lyons (asst. stage manager), Breon Arzell (choreography), Joy Ahn (scenic design), Daniel Friedman (lighting design), Jennifer Wernau (prop design), Rachel Sypniewski (costume design), John Nichols III (sound design), Bridget Schultz (poster design), Austin Oie (photos)

Marcus D. Moore, Eric Gerard, Sheldon Brown, Kiayla Ryann and Hunter Bryant star in The Shipment

18-0906

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Category: 2018 Reviews, Duane Barnes, Red Tape Theatre, The Ready

Comments (0)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

There are no comments yet. Why not be the first to speak your mind.

Comments are closed.