PICKSINSIX Review: RADIO GOLF
‘RADIO GOLF’ - A Stroke of Genius!
by Kaitlyn Linsner
An inspiring, must-see… A captivated audience rose to their feet on opening night of Court Theatre’s Radio Golf to applaud a powerful cast and resonating performance. The production explores pressing societal issues at the intersections of race, politics, and morality with engaging dialogue, deep humanity, and some hearty laughs. An inspiring, must-see for Chicagoans.
What it’s about … ‘Radio Golf’ sets the stage in Pittsburgh’s Hill District during the late 1990s where three determined black real-estate developers Harmond Wilks (Allen Gilmore), his wife Mame Wilks (Ann Joseph) and their partner Roosevelt Hicks (James Vincent Meredith) are on the verge of completing an economic development plan in hopes of restoring the blighted neighborhood and positioning themselves to reach their desired social status. This project could bring great success to all of them, specifically to Harmond Wilks, who grew up in the neighborhood and is now in the midst of his campaign to become the first black mayor of the city. However, over the course of several visits by insightful, long-time community members Elder Joseph Barlow (Alfred H. Wilson) and Sterling Johnson (James T. Alfred), who disagree with the development plan, conflicts arise and play out through the lens of the black experience to offer a complex exploration of change.
“Hail Hail, the Gang’s all Here” … The cast is terrific. Each member delivers an impactful performance perhaps most notable being Wilson’s portrayal of his eccentric character with genuine warmth and wisdom. Watch and wait for the gut-wrenching exchanges between the players especially when two commanding performers, Gilmore and Meredith, go head-to-head over purpose and calling.
Brilliant and thoroughly entertaining … While ‘Radio Golf’ takes place nearly twenty years ago, the story could not be more relevant today. It approaches uncomfortable truths about race dynamics and the nuances of human existence in a divisive society unapologetically. We celebrated moments of achievement with those on stage but remain unsure as to who truly wins in the end. We struggled through their conflicts of preservation or gentrification, moving up or selling out, right or wrong. We were ultimately given a brilliant, and thoroughly entertaining, opportunity to self-reflect on the impact we have on a profoundly personal and broader systemic level.
Detailed by design … Jack Magaw’s set design features impressive construction that accurately depicts the seasoned grit and character of a charming, old, unrestored building. An incredible amount of rigor was displayed in the smallest details, from the classic dirty crown molding to the concrete graffiti-ed stairs behind the windows. By not overlooking these details, the scenic elements enhanced by Clair Chrzan’s light design, engulfs the audience and enhances the believability in which this world exists.
Continue the Conversation … Court Theatre’s fine educational outreach programs continue with a panel discussion featuring director of ‘Radio Golf,’ Ron OJ Parson, and neighborhood-focused commercial real estate developer Leon I. Walker on Sunday, September 30 at 4:45 p.m. in the Abelson Auditorium about issues of urban revitalization and neighborhood economic development in Chicago. Admission is free.