Hellcab Review- A cabbie's day in Hades

Profiles Theatre, 4147 N. Broadway is currently staging “Hellcab” for it’s fourth consecutive holiday-season run; it will be shown through January 10th, 2016.  The play by Will Kern , first staged in 1992, is one of the longest-running shows in Chicago theatre history.  It was also published as a book in 1997, and made into a  movie, “Chicago Cab”, released in 1997.The stories from” Hellcab “ are not only taken from real life, but 85% of them are actually true and happened to the author. Directed by Ensemble member Eric Burgher, and starring Zlatomir Moldovanski as the driver, “Hellcab” features a cast of 33 Chicago actors, who move with incredible agility on and off the stage and of necessity, in and out of the beat-up, dingy and nondescript topless cab that forms the only scenery.

Irene Currie, Zlatomir Moldovanski

The action presents one hellish day in the life of a largely exhausted Chicago cabbie. It’s a bit difficult to figure out the exact time frame or era being demonstrated, as some of the city’s locations (revealed as the customer’s destinations) are now obsolete. Similarly, a number of cultural clues such as sports figures  and slang are outmoded. However, these insignia are really of little importance compared to the telling points made by this brave and honest examination of the values of Chicagoans: this is a sharp-eyed, blackly humorous expose’ of deeply entrenched sexist, classist and racist attitudes in the Windy City.

Grant Johnson, Bobby Bowman, Sissy Anne Quaranta, Zlatomir Moldovanski

One after another a cast of cheerless, clueless but extremely vocal and some frankly sinister characters wend their way in and out of the hapless and obviously fraught cabbie’s vehicle and consciousness. Singly and in couples, crazed and menacing, disordered and disorderly, frankly vicious or filled with false cheer, they gabble, chortle and expostulate freely at our driver and each other, taking him on a long, freezing cold and increasingly despairing circuitous voyage from the nearish north to the southwest sides of the city, ultimately creeping back north. We are witness to a wry vision of the hades that is our cabbie’s life, as explicated by the fares he carries. The action and extremely clever terse dialogue is unfortunately almost obliterated throughout by loud and out of date rock music.

Jeff Dolocek, Zlatomir Moldovanski

The play begins on a frigid morning with our morose cabbie trying to thaw out his ride and mood. It’s a bleak  day very near Christmas. As the day unfolds into night, he is visited by couples making out, couples spewing venom at each other, individuals who leave without paying, others he willingly drives for free out of fear for his person, some drunk or angry men and women who curse at and menace each other and the driver. Many of the characters, beautifully wrought and perfectly cast , attempt to draw our cabbie into their awful visions of life, of class, of relations between the sexes of themselves. Almost all of the customers are  seeking some type of validation from him.

Akua Sarhene, Grant Johnson, Zlatomir Moldovanski

Throughout all, the cabbie remains staunchly human and strangely constant. He is decent and honourable, if dour and increasingly fed-up. The brilliance of the production lies in exactly this counterpoint: come what may, our cabbie does his job. This superbly directed version of “Hellcab” reaches out to us, and achieves a stunningly human denouement through the pitch-perfect acting of the star no less than the wonderfully human encounter at the end, just in time for Christmas.

Ben Burke, Brianne Duncan Fiore, Zlatomir Moldovanski

“Hellcab” will run through January 10th: see it!

All images courtesy of Michael Brosilow


For tickets and information about Profiles upcoming productions contact www.profilestheatre.org



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