Shattered Globe’s “In the Heat of the Night” Review – Whodunit Where Racism Rules

(left to right) Drew Schad, Joseph Wiens and Manny Buckley in Shattered Globe Theatre’s production of IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, adapted by Matt Pelfrey, based on the novel by John Ball and directed by Louis Contey

 

Yet again, Shattered Globe gives us a production with depth, breadth and the kind of direction of top-notch actors that exhilarates. (Director:  Louis Contey)

 

Not that “in the Heat of the Night” is feel-good Pollyanna pap.  No, it’s a story grounded in the violent and racist culture of the South when resistance to integration was peaking.   In this production we feel racism’s venality, as suffocating as the high humidity high temperatures metaphorically referenced in its title.

 

(front to back) Tim Newell, Manny Buckley and Drew Schad in Shattered Globe Theatre’s production of IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, adapted by Matt Pelfrey, based on the novel by John Ball and directed by Louis Contey

 

Virgil Tibbs (Manny Buckley) is a police detective from California who commits the crime of waiting-for-a-train-while-Black.  It’s enough to land him in a small town Alabama jail on charges of murder.   Fate has it that he ends up helping to solve this crime.  The racists around him, the Police Chief (Joseph Wiens) among others, grudgingly accept this help.  It’s obvious to every audience member that Virgil Tibbs, by any metric, is the superior of any white man in that town.

 

(back, l to r) Manny Buckley, Steve Peebles and Joseph Wiens with (front) Tim Newell in Shattered Globe Theatre’s production of IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, adapted by Matt Pelfrey, based on the novel by John Ball and directed by Louis Contey

 

If you’re already thinking that these actors couldn’t possibly outdo Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger you can leave that bias at the theater door. 

 

(left to right) Brian Scannell, Steve Peebles and Drew Schad in Shattered Globe Theatre’s production of IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, adapted by Matt Pelfrey, based on the novel by John Ball and directed by Louis Contey

 

(left to right) Manny Buckley, Brad Woodard and Angie Shriner in Shattered Globe Theatre’s production of IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, adapted by Matt Pelfrey, based on the novel by John Ball and directed by Louis Contey

 

I thought it might be a problem but then ended up pondering how a story so well-suited to stage (Novel by John Ball; Adaptation by Matt Pelfrey) could possibly have worked as a movie    Never mind—this story is big enough for both stage and screen- and especially for Chicago audiences still in mourning and trying to make sense of Laquan’s murder.

 

It’s a timely story that demands you wonder if things are better or not.

 

(left to right) Manny Buckley and Drew Schad in Shattered Globe Theatre’s production of IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, adapted by Matt Pelfrey, based on the novel by John Ball and directed by Louis Contey

 

The acting is flawless.  We quickly fall in love with the young cop who doesn’t quite buy in to the rampant racism around him (Drew Schad).   We want to elect Angie Shriner’s character as Poster Girl for Poor White Trash.  Tim Newell plays two roles, but when we get to see him slow motion die, die and die again we scurry to check the program notes to find out if he has ballet training.   Steve Peebles and Brad Woodard similarly juggle multiple roles seamlessly.  Manny Buckley’s Virgil is alternately stiff and supple as the script demands.  When Joseph Wiens as the Police Chief sweats and then sweats some more, we swear we can smell him.

 

(left to right) Joseph Wiens, Tim Newell and Drew Schad in Shattered Globe Theatre’s production of IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, adapted by Matt Pelfrey, based on the novel by John Ball and directed by Louis Contey

 

If you too feel a lilt in your step when you see a great performance “In the Heat of the Night” is just the kind of live theater experience that you seek.

 

Now through June 5.

 

Theater Wit

1229 West Belmont Avenue

Chicago, IL

 

For tickets or information visit the Theater Wit website or call 773 975 8150.

 

Photos:  Michael Brosilow

 

 

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