With its raft of good intentions, talented cast and relevant theme, this is a play that one very much wishes to like. But PJ Paparelli’s and Joshua Jaeger’s interview-based documentary take on the life, death and ambiguous transformation of Chicago’s massive housing projects offers neither a solid storyline nor point of view. Earnest and well-researched, “The Project(s)” comes off as a somewhat muddled and only intermittently engaging telling of a vital and potentially fascinating tale.
The eight performers portray various real residents of Cabrini-Green, Robert Taylor Homes, Wentworth Gardens and other mostly vanished monuments to bad architecture and bureaucratic indifference. Linda Bright Clay, Omar Evans, Kenn E. Head, Joslyn Jones, Stephen Conrad Moore, Penelope Walker, Anji White and Eunice Woods deserve kudos for their tough and tangy portrayals of the dreamers and victims, angry protesters and go-with-the-flow survivors who populated the highrise human storage systems of the postwar years. But under Paparelli’s direction, the characters never develop, and so the production is more of a collage of anecdote and incident than a three-dimensional human drama. Read the rest of this entry »