Milk Like Sugar Review-A Great Collaboration Between the Yard and The Raven

“Milk Like Sugar”, written by Kirsten Greenidge  just ended a  very successful run at The Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark. The play starred students in the magnet arts department at nearby Senn High School, who did a truly excellent job under the direction of Michelle Moe and Joel Ewing, as part of the theater group called the Yard. “ Milk Like Sugar”, which refers to the reconstituted version of milk these children can find in their home cupboards, is the second play in a three part series, the first in collaboration with The Hypocrite’s, (“The Fourth Graders Present an Unnamed Love-Suicide”) , this an artistic alliance between Raven Theatre and the Yard, the third to be presented in conjunction with Jackalope Theater, (“I and You”).  John Olson, Director of Marketing and Press at the Raven, a professional regional theatre company, enthusiastically told this reviewer that art can inform the lives of these students. This dovetails nicely with the mission statement of the Raven, which “is dedicated to performing arts that illustrate the American experience and work that provides reflection on our identity”. The Yard is an outgrowth of Raven Theatre’s education residency at Senn.

Seharrell Rhodes, Ireon Roach, Lawren Carter

 The play, a 2012 Obie Award winner for Outstanding Playwriting, presents a disturbing vision of what passes for friendship, love and family planning today among  American high-school students, presumably in an inner-city setting . It’s unclear whether or not the student-actors were specifically picked because they were Hispanic and black; previous castings have been similarly racially designated. The young female actors performed their parts to perfection, although in some of the early scenes it was difficult to comprehend their rapid-fire jargon-laden speech.The drama unfolds as three young women chatter in a tattoo parlor, sharing the news that one of them is already pregnant; they enter into a pact calling for the other two girls to swiftly become pregnant also. The motivation for this is murky, but seems to revolve around sharing the experience of getting Coach and Jordan brand baby gifts; unfortunately, this very dubious level of thinking and relating is characteristic of every female in the play- and there are only two males in the cast! As the action continues, one girl really wants to back out and she is importuned and taunted repeatedly by the third in the trio; in the end, the unfortunate plan has indeed been carried out.

Ireon Roach, Megan Napier

As the play develops, we see the results of society’s broken promises in the affect of these women- not one of them has entered young womanhood unscathed. Margie, brilliantly played by Sheharrell Rhodes as the chatterbox airhead who first becomes pregnant ends up living in the projects. Talisha, played by Lawren Carter, breaking our hearts when she allows herself to be beaten up in exchange for a cell phone, is the next to succumb. The sacrifice of Annie , portrayed with a mature simplicity by Ireon Roach as  the last of the trio to become pregnant, is the central character of the play. She hooks up at last with the tattoo artist, played to perfection and with honest self-deprecating rue by Brandon Greenhouse. Along the way, Annie is badgered by Talisha and scorned by her hapless mother, a self-loathing self-styled failure, stunningly portrayed by Elana Elyce. She is betrayed by Keera, (Megan Napier) who skillfully fakes a false family life and almost leads Annie to religion, and rejected by Malik (Tevon Lanier), who refuses to become her “baby daddy”. Malik is the only young person to escape the ultimate catastrophe. Looking out of his world, as he does, through a telescope, he leaves Annie, at the end, pregnant and resigned.

Ireon Roach, Elana Elyce

Every single performance was true and performed with a freshness and intensity which, coupled with the strong wit and humour infused into the lines almost makes the viewer forget that this is a modern-day tragedy of epic propotion. This reviewer left the theater amid the clapping and cheers of the Senn friends and parents hoping that their enthusiasm for the success of the actors did not overshadow the message of the play. Special credit should be given to the extremely clever set design by Andrew Burden Swanson, which included a movable set of lockers, the tattoo parlor, and a graffiti-filled wall featuring great scenic painting by Anthony Venturini, and the spot-on costumes by Emma Cullimore, casual high-fashion coupled with sportswear. Lighting design by Maggie Fullilove-Nugent and sound design by Aaron James Stephenson subtly enhanced the evening.

Kevin Lanier, Ireon Roach

The next performances at The Raven will be the Midwest premiere of Horton Foote’s “The Old Friends”, a dark comedy by the author of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “A Loss of Roses”, by Pulitzer prize winner  William Inge, author of “Picnic”, These two will run concurrently at Raven for six weeks, with “The Old Friends” opening first, on February 2nd, and "A Loss of Friends" opening February 22nd.The Raven gives great performances for modest ticket prices-come and see!

Brandon Greenhouse, Ireon Roach, Sheharrell Rhodes, Lawren Carter

For tickets to these plays and the final performance of the Yard this season, contact Raven Theatre or the yard

Photo credits Dean LaPrairie




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