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  Middle Passage at Lifeline Theatre

Middle Passage

Lifeline Theatre
6912 North Glenwood Chicago

Middle Passage is an epic work adapted from Charles Johnson's celebrated book of the same name. Written for the stage by David Barr, III and Ilesa Duncan, the story follows cavalier, self-confessed rascal Rutherford Calhoun, a recently freed slave, from Illinois down to decadent 1830 New Orleans. In an attempt to escape debtors and avoid a forced marriage, he stows away on an outbound rigger, The Republic. But The Republic is not just any ship. It's a slave ship-and it's headed to Africa. Thus begins a voyage of self-discovery that changes our young hero forever.

Thru - Mar 12, 2020

Thursdays: 7:30pm
Fridays: 7:30pm
Saturdays: 4:00pm & 8:00pm
Sundays: 4:00pm

Price: $45

Show Type: Drama

Box Office: 773-761-4477

Running Time: 2hrs, 10mins

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  Middle Passage Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune - Recommended

"...Certainly, there are physical limitations and also subtler pieces of theater in town, although Alan Donahue’s set certainly takes you out to sea and back again. There’s a deftly toned lead performance from the young actor Michael Morrow, evoking part a cipher and, maybe, an eventual man who finally knows himself. Add in a full-throated theatrical turn from Patrick Blashill as Captain Falcon, and Bryan Carter as one of big characters on the quay and you’re in the company of skilled storytellers in service of the explication of freedom. The show is great for anyone about 11 years old and up."
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Chris Jones

Chicago Reader - Highly Recommended

"...A mix of the historic and the swashbuckling with a scosh of magical realism, this production captures what is most arresting about Johnson's original story. Morrow is splendid as the callow Rutherford forced to grow up and (in one mystical segment) confront literal ghosts of his past. If he sometimes seems like a cipher in the mix of larger-than-life characters surrounding him, that too is a reflection of how a Black man must negotiate what to reveal and what to hide about himself for the sake of his life and liberty."
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Kerry Reid

Windy City Times - Recommended

"...It's an engaging show, and why not? Lifeline Theatre has presented page-to-stage adaptations for nearly 40 years, so they have the narrative techniques and story-telling tricks down pat. Also, the cast features veteran Lifeline Ensemble members in key roles—Patrick Blashill as Falcon, Andres Enriquez as First Mate Cringle & Christopher Hainsworth as Squibb the cook—and they bring experience and versatility to the production."
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Jonathan Abarbanel

Chicago Theatre Review - Highly Recommended

"...This noteworthy, award-winning historical novel of the sea is a perfect offering for this company, especially during Black History Month. But this intricate tale of a young man’s journey toward maturity requires careful attention and listening by its audience. Lifeline Theatre’s brilliant cast and crew, under the tight direction of Ilesa Duncan, work hard to make history come alive, bringing this unbelievable adventure to the stage. For the smart theatergoer, however, the long voyage is definitely worthwhile."
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Colin Douglas - Highly Recommended

"...The cast is uniformly good - really good - and most play multiple ensemble roles, as well as their principle character. Particularly notable performances were delivered by Patrick Blashill as Captain Falcon and Andres Enriquez as navigator Peter Cringle. Shelby Lynn Bias’s Isadora is both nicely written, and very well delivered – she is very 1830s Bostonian. Hunter Bryant (Calhoun’s brother Jackson), also, notably plays the role of a young slave learning English who bonds with Calhoun. Bryant launches convincingly into a somewhat lengthy delivery in an Allmuseri language."
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Bill Esler

The Fourth Walsh - Highly Recommended

"...The show is part musical (Shawn Wallace Composer/Music Director), part adventure, part romance, part history lesson… it’s a lot of parts! And it’s longer than the publicized two hours. Duncan, co-adapter and director, could have tightened the journey and the experience with some editing. Still, her ensemble is terrific. The charismatic Morrow charms everyone, the proper Shelby Lynn Bias, the crusty Patrick Blashill, the earnest Andrés Enriquez, and basically the entire audience. Morrow tirelessly transforms from amicable scoundrel to empathetic bystander to worldly savant. His metamorphosis is the heart and soul of this voyage."
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Katy Walsh

Third Coast Review - Somewhat Recommended

"...Lifeline Theatre presents Dr. Charles Johnson’s 1990 National Book Award winner Middle Passage, directed by Ilesa Duncan, who co-adapted with David Barr III. The result struggles from the page to the stage. Self-described rogue, “social parasite” and freeman Rutherford Calhoun (Michael Morrow) arrives in New Orleans from southern Illinois in 1829, where he enjoys making a living as a pickpocket and petty thief."
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Karin McKie

TotalTheater - Highly Recommended

"...Lifeline Theater's nearly half-century of expertise at fitting panoramic vistas to its silo-shaped stage easily accommodates a cast of eleven playing a multitude of roles (including a puppet parrot and a shape-shifting old-world god). Let's not forget, either, a storm at sea incorporating thunder and lightning, crashing waves, planks ripped away from the ship's hull, and passengers washed overboard—all depicted so immediately that we can almost smell the salt spray."
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Mary Shen Barnidge

Picture This Post - Highly Recommended

"...It is the opinion of this particular reviewer that on the whole, despite a rather abrupt and melodramatic conclusion, MIDDLE PASSAGE is a masterfully executed, spellbinding piece of theatre that is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for all audiences, particularly those who enjoy their high adventure with a social conscience."
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Spence Warren

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   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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