PICKSINSIX Review: HAYMARKET
‘HAYMARKET’ – MUCH MORE HERE THAN HISTORY!
Spirited Retelling... Underscore Theatre Company’s HAYMARKET - A New Folk Musical has transferred from a highly successful five-week run at Den Theatre to Theater Wit now playing through September 2nd. With book and lyrics by Alex Higgin-Houser and music by David Kornfeld, directed and choreographed by Nick Thornton with musical direction by Robert Ollis, HAYMARKET is a spirited retelling of the May 1886 events surrounding the deadly clash of workers and Chicago police at Haymarket Square on May 4th and its aftermath.
Lyrical and Inspiring... The Higgin-Houser/Kornfeld score is fresh, lyrical and inspiring. The ensemble, an extremely talented and versatile cast of over a dozen actors who sing, dance and accompany themselves on multiple instruments throughout, portray a vast array of fascinating characters. And there is much more here than history. HAYMARKET will touch you in ways that you did not see coming.
What it's about... A national strike on May Day 1886 – the largest occurring in Chicago – saw workers walking out in support of an eight-hour workday imagined in the rallying cry: “Eight hours to work. Eight hours to rest. Eight hours of what we will.” Leading the Chicago protest organizers are the true-to-life main characters of HAYMARKET - Albert (Erik Pearson) and Lucy Parsons (Khloe Janel), August Spies (T.L. Anderson), Adolph (Josiah Robinson) and Joanna Fischer (Melanie Vitaterna), George (Eric Loughlin) and Jane Engel (Sarah Beth Tanner) and Nina Van Zandt (Katherine Duffy). The outlier of the group, an anarchist named Louis Lingg (Joey Herbert), has other diabolical compulsions. The interplay of the organizers to keep the movement peaceful and orderly provide layers of dramatic undertones to the story which boil up in a confrontation on May 3rd, leading to the death of workers at the hands of the police, and the bombing and riot in Haymarket Square the following day. Absent a primary suspect, the protest organizers are held accountable, arrested, tried and put to death. Their memory and mission become the legacy of activist Lucy Parsons, whose efforts well into the 20th century helped to forge the labor movement in America.
Vaulted moment... Framed with the reflective and beautiful recurring anthems, 'Hear the News' and 'Leading the March' (the latter providing a vaulted moment for Janel in Act II), the chemistry between Janel’s Lucy and Pearson’s Albert is exemplified in the tender ballad Letters 'From My Love'. T. J. Anderson’s inspiring presence is evident in the company numbers 'Workingmen, To Arms!' and 'Keep on Talking, August Spies'. Janel and Duffy lead the company powerfully in 'The Order of the Gallows'. Harbert’s chilling 'Lady Dynamite' is also a standout.
Sizzling charge effects... The lush staging and period costumes by Eric Luchen and Christina Leinicke are enhanced by Erik Barry’s lighting, sizzling charge effects by Lee Moore and Brandon Reed’s sound to effectively create a rustic 1880’s backdrop for this sweeping historical saga.
Brazen New Musical... The themes of HAYMARKET are profoundly resonant and the continuing evolution of this brazen new musical work - by a talented, creative team in ascension - a credit to Underscore's development program. In addition to exploring a central voice for human rights, the show reminds us again that much of what we take for granted came at the supreme sacrifice of others. HAYMARKET also addresses issues of law enforcement of the day. The tragic and senseless death of protesters and officers, and an act that we would call ‘terrorism’ today, is only the tip of the spear of the poignant story being told that leads to a corrupt criminal prosecution and the injustice of a sentence carried out against innocent men. In the end, we can never truly make amends for the miscarriage of justice. We can only pledge to never forget.
(Images from 2018 Den Theater run)
in association with
A New Folk Musical
Book and Lyrics by Alex Higgin-Houser
Music by David Kornfeld
through September 2nd
1229 W. Belmont Ave.