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  Gem of the Ocean at Court Theatre

Gem of the Ocean

Court Theatre
5535 S. Ellis Avenue Chicago

Resident Artist Ron OJ Parson continues his triumphant tour through August Wilson's iconic century cycle with Gem of the Ocean, his seventh Wilson production at Court Theatre. Nominated for the Tony Award for Best Play in 2005, Gem of the Ocean is a fantastical story of freedom, justice, and redemption. A new century has dawned in America, but the shadow of slavery's legacy lingers. As a city desperate for freedom descends into chaos, a murderer arrives on the doorstep of Ester Tyler's Pittsburgh home. Known as a cleanser of souls, Ester must take this stranger on a spiritual journey of healing and renewal to the mythical City of Bones. Actress Greta Oglesby (Ma Rainey's Black Bottom) returns to play Ester, a role she originated in 2003, and will be joined by Court favorites A.C. Smith (Fences, Jitney), Alfred Wilson (Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Jitney), David Alan Anderson (The Mountaintop), and Tyla Abercrumbie (The Piano Lesson).

Thru - Oct 11, 2015

Wednesdays: 7:30pm
Thursdays: 7:30pm
Fridays: 8:00pm
Saturdays: 3:00pm & 8:00pm
Sundays: 2:30pm & 7:30pm

Price: $45-$65

Show Type: Drama

Box Office: 773-753-4472

Running Time: 2hrs, 50mins

Court Theatre Seating Chart

  Gem of the Ocean Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune - Highly Recommended

"...In general, Parson's takes on Wilson these last two or three years have been less referential and mellow than the work of other directors. Parson has a fire to him, and the flames flicker very provocatively throughout his very potent Court "Gem." Then again, Parson also can take advantage of Chicago's informal August Wilson Repertory Company, a group of actors who have worked on these plays in this town for many years. Craftsman like Smith and Wilson are consummate interpreters of this great poet. And the identity of this play as a work of culmination can only come to full fruition in the hands of actors ho have done so many of the other plays which came before, even if the years spin forward in the plays themselves."
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Chris Jones

Chicago Sun Times - Recommended

"..."Gem of the Ocean" (whose title clearly is an ironic play on the song that served as an unofficial national anthem during the Civil War era) is not the best play in Wilson's cycle. You could easily argue that distinction belongs to "Two Trains Running," "Seven Guitars," "Fences," "Joe Turner's Come and Gone," "The Piano Lesson," "Jitney" or "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom." But even a lesser Wilson play is masterful - full of gorgeous writing, and scenes that can take your breath away, especially when they are played by actors of the stature director Ron OJ Parson (who has directed 22 productions of Wilson's work) has gathered on stage."
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Hedy Weiss

Chicago Reader - Somewhat Recommended

"...Wilson's decision to put a calmly profound, Yodaesque figure like Ester at the center of things sacrifices dramatic urgency, though scenes pitting law enforcement against black lives have a striking contemporary relevance. Ron OJ Parson's handsome staging owes its emotional impact not to the script, which sometimes feels remote, but to the cast, who turn in performances brimming with humor and compassion."
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Zac Thompson

Time Out Chicago - Highly Recommended

"...Still, the always delightful Williams is equal parts wry, warm and wise as Ester, and surrounded by a top-notch supporting cast including the likes of A.C. Smith, Alfred H. Wilson and Tyla Abercrumbie. And Haynes, following his recent work in Native Son, The Royale and A Raisin in the Sun, continues to prove one of Chicago’s most compelling young leading men."
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Kris Vire

Chicago On the Aisle - Highly Recommended

"...August Wilson’s decade-by-decade portrait gallery of the African-American experience across the 20th century begins just two generations after slavery, indeed with characters who were born into shackles. To grasp the cultural resonance and progression of the last nine plays in the sequence, it’s essential to know the first one, “Gem of the Ocean,” which now unfolds in a perceptive and finely textured production directed by Ron OJ Parson at Court Theatre."
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Lawrence B. Johnson

ChicagoCritic - Highly Recommended

"...It features some familiar faces. As always, Wilson generously distributed his poetic narratives and ruminations to his actors, who relish the chance to speak such deep thoughts in plays that allow them to merge with their ancestors’ experiences. But while Two Trains Running was a mostly realistic play with a few references to the unseen mystical Aunt Ester, and other Wilson plays, such as The Piano Lesson, are explicitly magical, Gem of the Ocean is an ambiguous borderland. Both introspective and keenly engaged with the problems of the world when it is set in 1904, when it was written in 2003, and today in 2015, the play shows that to fix what influences you, you first have to understand, and come to terms with, yourself."
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Jacob Davis

Around The Town Chicago - Highly Recommended

"...Court Theatre’s lyrical production of August Wilson’s “Gem of the Ocean” was both a history lesson and profoundly moving. In most of the plays of the Pittsburgh cycle that I’ve seen, the characters are dealing the best they can. In “Gem of the Ocean”, bigotry and echoes of the Civil War overlay ordinary life."
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Carol Moore

Chicago Theatre Review - Highly Recommended

"...Jacqueline Williams, A.C. Smith, Tyla Abercrumbie, and Jerod Haynes bring Wilson’s writing to life; indeed, it’s as though we’re peeping in on relationships that have been gestating for years. It’s particularly gratifying watching Haynes develop as an actor. From TimeLine’s ‘Raisin in the Sun’ to three productions now at Court, Haynes continues to grow more nuanced and natural with each role; we’re truly seeing a star take shape."
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Peter Thomas Ricci

Chicagoland Theater Reviews - Recommended

"...“Gem of the Ocean” is worth seeing as the building block that points toward the other nine plays in the cycle. Having seen the entire cycle, I would rate this one as 10th of the 10. It can be recommended for its fine performances and for its shards of humor and dramatic tension. I would have much preferred revivals of “The Piano Lesson” or “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone,” but any decent staging of a Wilson play is a gift."

Dan Zeff

  Gem of the Ocean 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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