Theatre In Chicago      
Your Source For What's On Stage In Chicago 

   Quick Search
Search by date:

  Direct from Death Row The Scottsboro Boys at Raven Theatre

Direct from Death Row The Scottsboro Boys

Raven Theatre
6157 N. Clark St Chicago

The dark chapter of American history - in which nine African-American teenagers were falsely convicted of assaulting two white women and spent decades in the legal system fighting for their lives - is told surreally and satirically in Stein's play. In it, the "boys" return from eternity to the stage, where they keep their story alive through songs, a magic act, a ventriloquist act, skits and soft shoe - all to convey the tawdry show that their case became.

Thru - Aug 27, 2016

Price: $42

Show Type: Drama

Box Office: 773-338-2177

Running Time: 2hrs, 30mins; one intermission

Nearby Restaurants

  Direct from Death Row The Scottsboro Boys Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune - Highly Recommended

"...But underneath the sardonic laughs is a deep abiding sense of loss and a question about how many other young men have been condemned by poverty and racial prejudice to death row. The coda here makes it clear that life after prison is no cakewalk, either — and when the lights go down on the legal circus, the ghost light of anguish that such things still go on today lingers in our minds."
Read Full Review

Kerry Reid

Chicago Sun Times - Highly Recommended

"...A work of searing truth and staggering theatricality, this Midwest premiere of Mark Stein's important, ingeniously conceived play - with a wonderfully warped use of traditional songs, plus original music and lyrics by Harley White Jr. - is a magnificent achievement on the part of its creators. And it has been brilliantly directed by Michael Menendian (in the most superb, breakout work of his long career), with a cast of nine young, blazingly talented African American actors diving brilliantly into satirical work that would bring a big smile to Bertolt Brecht's face."
Read Full Review

Hedy Weiss

Chicago Reader - Somewhat Recommended

"...Mark Stein, in his hypersatirical, surface-skipping overview of the four Scottsboro trials and their aftermath, gives the episode barely a passing mention. Instead he paints the patently racist, anti-Semitic, xenophobic trials in broad, semicomic strokes to show how patently racist, anti-Semitic, and xenophobic they were. All the heightened buffoonery and ironic song-and-dance numbers, alternately inspired and perfunctory in this Raven Theatre production, can't make these two exhaustingly ardent acts accomplish much beyond restating the obvious."
Read Full Review

Justin Hayford

Windy City Times - Highly Recommended

"...The danger in this irreverent approach is the propensity for actors to become carried away by their own daring, indulging in just one more shoulder-roll or extending a deep-south vowel just a second or two longer than necessary. This remount of last season's multiple award-winning production reunites director Michael Menendian's original cast, however, every one of whom exhibits chops honed to split-second perfection. Two-and-a-half hours may seem a lengthy history lesson, but never for an instant does our attention wander, whether chortling at the two top lawyers kicking up their heels in a jubilant tap-dance or stifling our horror at the abuse inflicted on the youngest convicts in the prisons. If you missed this show its first time, don't make that mistake again."
Read Full Review

Mary Shen Barnidge

Edge - Highly Recommended

"...It's difficult to imagine a stronger opening for Raven Theatre's 2015-2016 season, their first to include five plays, than "Direct from Death Row The Scottsboro Boys (An Evening of Vaudeville and Sorrow)." Mark Stein's 2002 play with music and lyrics by Harley White, Jr., is an absolute gem, superbly performed by Raven's cast under the direction of Michael Menendian."
Read Full Review

Christine Malcom

Chicago On the Aisle - Highly Recommended

"...This brilliant and heartbreaking show, way out of the box and very funny, based on one of the most deplorable episodes in American social history, winds down its second run in consecutive seasons Aug. 27 at Raven. It's must see theater, but more than that: If you see it once, chances are you'll want nothing more than to take it from the top and revel again in its mesmerizing mix of mordant wit and wry pain."
Read Full Review

Lawrence B. Johnson

Splash Magazine - Highly Recommended

"...Better still, how wonderful the direction by Michael Menendian to unleash the talents of this nine member cast to engage us in re-living the history of nine Black men wrongfully accused of raping white women, fellow hobos on a train."
Read Full Review

Amy Munice

ChicagoCritic - Highly Recommended

"...The comic relief and the heavy satire makes not only for rich entertainment but makes it easier for us to cope with the utter injustice of America in the 1930’s. How better to dramatize and tell an important story that through strong narrative with loads of song and dance? It sure works here. Raven Theatre and director Michael Menendian should be proud of the terrific production. They prove once more that smaller non-Equity troupes often scoop the big regional theatres with innovative important shows like Direct from Death Row – The Scottsboro Boys! Don’t miss this gem!"
Read Full Review

Tom WIlliams

Chicago Stage Standard - Recommended

"...The story of the Scottsboro Boys is fascinating and painful and necessary to continue to tell. But this play can plod along at times, feeling more like a recitation of a history book than a compelling piece of art. But the theatricality of Menendian's direction (aided by clever lighting by Diane D. Fairchild and a set reminiscent of the platform of a gallows by Ray Toler) keeps this production afloat. This script lacks clarity-"If you've been taking notes," the play borderline mocks-I know the story behind the play well and I still struggled to follow this version. I do believe most of the blame can fall on the script, but the production could have helped tell the story more."

Jerald Raymond Pierce

Around The Town Chicago - Highly Recommended

"...While the dramatic and vaudevillian scenes are mixed throughout the play’s linear plot, I think potential patrons will benefit from reading about the two techniques separately: first, the darkest parts of the narrative are the horrors of racism, imprisonment, and the threat of execution that these men alone have experienced, and can understand and communicate, and secondly, the more humorous scenes, which center mainly around the white character’s, and contain performances and numbers inspired by vaudeville."
Read Full Review

Lawrence Riordan

NewCity Chicago - Highly Recommended

"...The entire cast do a remarkable job in their main roles, as well as their adopted, masked personae. Kevin Patterson's portrayal of the primary narrator of the show, Haywood Patterson, is edgy and dangerous throughout. He keeps us from letting down our emotional guard despite the laughter that flows due to the sharp writing in Mark Stein's script. Breon Arzell shines brightly during his scenes as Joe Brodsky (a Communist Party leader who tried to help the nine men). Arzell's skills in dell'arte-style mask work is evident, and his movement work is a thing of beauty."
Read Full Review

Christopher Kidder-Mostrom

Chicago Theatre Review - Highly Recommended

"...America may label itself the "Land of the free and home of the brave," but since the '70s, it has steadily added another label to its notch - the land of mass incarceration. Although the U.S. accounts for 5 percent of the world's population, it makes up 25 percent of the world's prisoners, and no group of Americans is more harmed by that percentage than African Americans, who are incarcerated at 10 times the rate of their white peers; indeed, one in four black men born since the late '70s has been incarcerated. Those are all shameful, discouraging statistics, and Raven Theatre is to be applauded for tackling what is still an all-too-present problem in such a brave, artistically exhilarating fashion."
Read Full Review

Peter Thomas Ricci

The Fourth Walsh - Highly Recommended

"...The ensemble, except for Patterson, play multiple roles. They are a Scottsboro Boy and a white person connected to the trial. They transition into the white person by donning a mask. Designer David Knezz has created these amazing masks. They are both life-like and surreal at the same time. The distinct masks perfectly enhance the personality of the character. The prosecutor's has a long sinister nose. The jury's are these matching, simpleton ones. The effect is disturbing and intriguing."
Read Full Review

Katy Walsh

Third Coast Review - Highly Recommended

"...All the performers except Patterson play multiple roles. Andrew Malone, who plays Charlie, doubles as the New York defense attorney, Sam Leibowitz. He faces off against the boys' nemesis, Attorney General Knight (Semaj Miller, who also plays Olen). The two attorneys perform some slick dances during their various legal contretemps, as does Brandon Greenhouse as the dignified NAACP lawyer, Walter White, who wears a brown-face mask. Jackets and briefcases are all that's needed to transform a Scottsboro boy into an attorney. Their gestures and accents change to suit their roles. The other boys are Willie (Breon Arzell, who also plays lawyer Joe Brodsky) and Clarence (Tamarus Harvell, who also plays a judge)."
Read Full Review

Nancy Bishop

  Direct from Death Row The Scottsboro Boys 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.

Twitter Follow Us On Twitter