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  Byhalia, Mississippi at The Den Theatre

Byhalia, Mississippi

The Den Theatre
1329-1333 N. Milwaukee Chicago

Jim and Laurel Parker are about to become new parents. They are broke. They are loud. They are "proud white trash." When Laurel finally gives birth to their overdue child, she and Jim are faced with the biggest challenge of their lives: their baby boy is black, the result of Laurel's affair the previous year. The lives of their families and friends are thrown into turmoil in Byhalia, Mississippi, a town with a racially-charged past that still affects its present.

Thru - Feb 14, 2016

Price: $20-$30

Show Type: Drama

Box Office: 773-697-3830

Running Time: 2hrs, 15mins; one intermission

  Byhalia, Mississippi Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune - Highly Recommended

"...I've long been interested in Linder's work. But it took until Monday night for him to deliver an honest-to-goodness play. By that I mean a really good new American drama: something wise, truthful, funny and moving; a piece that other theaters should do; a script that hangs easily with shows by the leading writers of our day and a show that might bring a little moistness to one's cheek."
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Chris Jones

Chicago Reader - Highly Recommended

"...Linder as Jim and Liz Sharpe as Laurel give nuanced, emotionally raw, and often humorous performances supported by an all-star cast including Cecilia Wingate as Laurel's overbearing mother, Kiki Layne as wronged wife Ayesha, and Jeffery Owen Freelon Jr. as Jim's best friend, Karl. Directed by Tyrone Phillips, the work broadens into a thoughtful examination of racism's tentacles and the grip they have on even the most intimate of relationships."
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Marissa Oberlander

Time Out Chicago - Recommended

"...What Linder's script and director Tyrone Phillips's vision do achieve, early-run flubs and logistical questions (how is the incessant yelling and banging not waking the newborn?) aside, is a narrative that feels at once familiar and startlingly unexpected."
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Gwen Purdom

Theatre By Numbers - Highly Recommended

"...Representing authentic characters on stage is hard work. Just generally. Creating authentic characters from a region that is often treated to stereotyping and near parody when presented on Northern stages is remarkable work. Evan Linder's "Byhalia, Mississippi" is a very real look at the people of Northern Mississippi (the part a stone's throw from Tennessee and Arkansas). It's a corner of the country that many from the Midwest would look down upon as being populated by racist hillbillies. And, sure, there have been racial issues in that area, and still are. But, that's true here in Chicago, too. One of the beautiful things about this play is that it addresses a plethora of social and political issues, but does so subtly by focusing on the characters and making them as real as possible."
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Christopher Kidder-Mostrom

ChicagoCritic - Highly Recommended

"...Part of the World Premiere Conversation Phillips and Linder are pioneering is an online chat with audiences in other cities to take place on January 18 at 7:00 pm, central time. The characters' discussion over the responsibilities attached to giving and receiving forgiveness, and how they play into the dynamics of their own cities, are sure to resonate with a great many people. Byhalia, Mississippi is a must-see, and one which demands to be talked about."
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Jacob Davis

NewCity Chicago - Recommended

"...What sets “Byhalia, Mississippi” apart from other Deep South dramas is the appealing nature of its central characters. This is the New South and overt racism is something more likely displayed by an older generation. Laurel’s mother, for example, reacts to the birth of her biracial grandson by telling her daughter, “Please tell me you were raped.”"
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Noel Schecter

Chicago Theatre Review - Highly Recommended

"...Under Phillips’ direction, there is not a weak actor in the cast. As Laurel, Liz Sharpe is likable and infuriating in equal measure, a Hester Prynne of sorts who stubbornly insists on raising her baby on her terms; as Jim, Linder doubles as an actor, and brings a considerable charm and, in the play’s second half, intensity to his scenes; as Celeste, Cecilia Wingate is every bit the Southern matriarch we expect her to be, with religious conviction to boot; and as Karl and Ayesha, Jeffery Owen Freelon, Jr. and Kiki Layne are the play’s conscience, the black characters who remind their white counterparts, often in brutal language, just how sensitive the territory is that they’re probing."
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Peter Thomas Ricci

Chicago Theater Beat - Highly Recommended

"...This production flummoxed me, given my past less-than-enjoyable outings with New Colony. It just works on every level, and I'm not sure we'll ever know just how much that is owed to Definition's influence, but I'd happily return to see another collaboration if this is any indication of the quality to be expected. In fact, I'd watch a sequel, so deep was my empathy for these characters. Byhalia's world premiere took place in four cities simultaneously (Chicago, LA, Boulder and Birmingham), and I'll be curious to see how each city interprets this work. As for Chicagoans, I can only say this: book your tickets for a trip down South now."

Clint May

  Byhalia, Mississippi Photo Gallery

   This show has been Jeff Recommended*

*The designation of "Jeff Recommended" is given to a production when at least ONE ELEMENT of the show was deemed outstanding by the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee.

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