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‘Crime Scene’ Is a Strong New Play About Chicago’s Murder Problem

Collaboraction’s new production about Chicago’s high murder rate is visceral, passionate, and pretty well done.

Photograph: courtesy of collaboraction

 

Visceral, kinetic and passionate, Collaboraction’s Crime Scene: A Chicago Anthology should be required viewing for anyone with a vested interest in the ongoing bloodbath taking place on Chicago’s streets. So, everyone who lives in this city.

Devised and directed by Anthony Moseley, Crime Scene is an urgent, enlightening, and compelling exploration of crime in our city. But Crime Scene is not an After School Special. There’s no condescension or preachiness, no simplistic hand-wringing or anti-crime polemics.

Using a mix of movement, music, and dialogue, Mosely’s intense, 11-person cast digs deep, depicting the murderously combative climate in neighborhoods with names like Terror Town. Mosely’s story comments on today’s tragedies with a fascinating historical context for the current environment with a rapid-fire docudrama. It takes audiences from the 1886 Haymarket riot, to Al Capone and the ascension of organized crime, to Richard M. Daley’s “shoot to kill” orders in the wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King. Along the way, we get the origins of the Blackstone Rangers, the rise of Cabrini Green, and a cross-current of views on crime taken directly from interviews, news stories, and online fulminating.

Although Crime Scene is staged as a series of vignettes, it is far more than just an episodic run-down of heart-breaking attacks. It doesn’t matter how accustomed you are to the likes of Grand Theft Auto or how numb you are to the daily (sometimes hourly) reports of senseless shootings and bloodshed—Crime Scene will shock you.

At times Crime Scene is deeply despair-inducing in its parade of victims and perpetrators, from Natasha McShane, a vivacious Irish exchange student who is bludgeoned and maimed, to Lil JoJo, the slain young rapper whose death gained infamy last year when rival artist Chief Keef tweeted “LMFAO” in response to the murder. But there are glimmers of hope and resilience woven into this skein of savagery—Victoria Blade’s haunting acoustic song  “Let Hope Rise,” is one stunning example. Crime Scene offers no pat solutions, but amid all the sorrow and tragedy, it slaps human stories, and faces, onto the overwhelming, even alienating, topic. 

Catey Sullivan is the contributing theatre critic for Chicago magazine.

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