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Lookingglass Theatre’s “Thaddeus and Slocum” Review – Racism Vaudeville Style

By Amy Munice

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Travis Turner (Thadeus) and Samuel Taylor (Slocum)

 

“Thaddeus and Slocum: A Vaudeville Adventure” tells the story of two old friends—one Black and one White- who share a Vaudeville act and dreams of breaking into the big time.  It’s a time when the Cubs seemed invincible, there were racial quotas on stages, and putting black face on in minstrel style was a norm.  

 

Promising to give racism-wracked Chicago a deep dive into how the racial divide played out on our Vaudeville stages, Lookingglass’ “Thaddeus and Slocum:  A Vaudeville Adventure” instead stays very much on the surface.

 

It’s a thin script, with anachronistic character mindsets.

 

Monica Raymond

 

 It did remind of the works that did and do get under your skin, in all senses, to convey the tragedies in and around the phenomena of  “passing”.   Not finding much content in the script to latch on to, I found myself thinking instead of the musical classic “Showboat” and a book on this subject that rocked my world, “The Sweeter the Juice” by Shirlee Taylor Haizlip  1994**, in which the author gives an account of how she searched to connect with her long lost white relations, whom her mother missed with pains  akin to the haunting shouts  of phantom limbs.  

 

Monica Raymond and Adam Brown

 

It would be very timely for a poignant script to take this conversation about race further, but this reviewer doesn’t think you’ll find it in “Thaddeus and Slocum”. 

 

Lawrence E. DiStasi and Adam Brown

 

For the most part, the actors do their part with what they have to work with. 

 

Molly Brennan

 

There is a lot of light-hearted burlesque, song and dance to keep you somewhat engaged in the play. 

 

Samuel Taylor (Slocum) and Travis Turner (Thaddeus)

 

It must take a LOT of rehearsal to create the somersaulting gymnastics of the duo leads playing Thaddeus (Travis Turner) and Slocum (Samuel Taylor) or the muscular acrobatics by Lawrence E. Distasi.  It’s fun to watch talented Monica Raymond as Isabella do a four-handed piano turn with Adam Wesley Brown, or get wrapped in Sharriese Hammilton’s (Nellie) warm smile as she soft shoes or croons.  Kudos to Raymond Fox for so successfully handling his dangling mustache on opening night that he left many in the audience wondering if this was or wasn’t part of the intended act.

 

Now until August 14.

 

For tickets or information call 312 337 0665 or visit the Lookingglass Theatre Company website.

 

Lookingglass Theatre Company

821 North Michigan at Pearson

Chicago

 

Photos:  Liz Lauren

**Many thanks to my friend, Julie Rand, Adult Services Librarian at Skokie Library, who helped retrieve the correct title and author of this book.

 

 

Published on Jun 12, 2016

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