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  HeLa Reviews

Sideshow Theatre Company at The Greenhouse Theater Center
Thru - Dec 23, 2018

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Sideshow Theatre Company at The Greenhouse Theater Center

  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune- Highly Recommended

"...the risks Brooks takes here in reimagining and expanding Lacks’ story make up for the occasional raw edges with a rich and emotionally satisfying conclusion. It’s both a worthy complement to what we learned from Skloot’s book and a complex stand-alone meditation on what makes our lives matter — even after we’ve ceased to be."
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Kerry Reid

Chicago Reader- Highly Recommended

"...The uniformly excellent cast, most juggling multiple roles, are each given moments to shine, but eight-year-old Ayah Sol Masai Hall as the unnamed little girl is the burning star around which this particular galaxy revolves. Brooks has written what will undoubtedly be a play that will be performed countless times in the future. I felt fortunate to witness it so soon after its inception. If you don't feel something after seeing it, check your pulse."
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Dmitry Samarov

Windy City Times- Somewhat Recommended

"...Many may be familiar with Lacks and HeLa—as I was not—via a 2010 book by Rebecca Skloots and a 2017 TV film with Oprah Winfrey. Such informed viewers may plug into this play immediately. But—and it's a big "but"—audience members should not have to read the program for sufficient context to make sense of the juggled stories. If I'd not read the article, I would have been lost and, therefore, uninterested and dismissive of HeLa. This is a serious dramaturgical problem. A play needn't be literal or realistic, but its context must be self-apparent to viewers."
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Jonathan Abarbanel

Theatre By Numbers- Highly Recommended

"...Jonathan L. Green has crafted a truly wonderful stage experience, and honors J. Nicole Brooks’ complex narrative, making a cohesive story from source material that is beautiful in its messiness. It’s lasting, effective, and one-of-a-kind."
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Sean Margaret Wagner

Stage and Cinema- Recommended

"...Throughout HeLa, Henrietta's unrequited legacy of miracle cures pulsates with promise. We feel it, thirty years late, in the Little Girl's cosmic curiosity. It culminates in the intrepid Jata's intergalactic odyssey. The latter character, embodying the final evolution of Henrietta's Promethean-like offering, is inspired by a kind of other-worldly apotheosis: Henrietta's supercells have been launched into orbit on space missions (and even blown up by an atomic bomb). H.L. becomes the unintentionally altruistic avatar who lifts every character into orbit."
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Lawrence Bommer

NewCity Chicago- Highly Recommended

"...Sideshow Theatre’s 2018-19 season launches with J. Nicole Brooks’ remarkable “HeLa,” a profound meditation on the individual’s relationship to the universe. “HeLa” oscillates from the corporeal body to heavenly bodies, the past to the future, the condition of the cell/self to the human condition. The play is a non-linear interweaving of Afrofuturism, the true story of Henrietta Lacks, and a little girl’s love for space. Beautifully balanced by humor and poetry under Jonathan L. Green’s direction, these worlds are navigated with compassion, sincerity and a curiosity for the unknown."
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Kelsey McGrath

Chicago Theatre Review- Highly Recommended

"...Ultimately, there is a lot to digest in this play. I’ve been thinking about it for the better part of two days now, and I’m not sure I could sum up the show in any concise way. I’m not entirely sure I’m supposed to. What I’ll say is this: both the experience of watching the show and the time I’ve spent mulling over its images and themes has been by turns haunting and lovely. I’ve said a few times in this review that I felt unqualified to speak more deeply on what the play has to say, because the issues and experiences are not ones I have experienced personally. I can think of few better reasons to go see a show."
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Kevin Curran

Third Coast Review- Highly Recommended

"...Jonathan L. Green directs HeLa with style and his staging makes good use of the Greenhouse’s main stage. The actors play multiple parts and their capable performances are marked by those of Hall, Haskins and Hamilton."
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Nancy Bishop