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  Ms. Blakk For President Reviews
Ms. Blakk For President
Steppenwolf Theatre

  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune- Somewhat Recommended

"...Moreover, this is very much a local story told in a home-town theater company, located on the same street, even, as many of the establishments where Ms. Blakk campaigned. I think this show, which pretty much ignores the mayoral election, begins far too late in Smith’s story, meaning that we don’t understand enough about his origins or the formation of this character — in reality, the presidential campaign was an extension of something already achieved. It’s hard to get a full grasp of Ms. Blakk for president of the United States without first understanding Ms Blakk for mayor of Chicago. She was born of this city and nurtured by the risk-raking radicals and writers of the early 1990s; had the show started earlier and gone deeper, and been constructed more in biographical research, we could learned more about our origins and ourselves."
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Chris Jones



Daily Herald- Somewhat Recommended

"...But passion isn't enough. Inspiring as the story is, as earnestly as it's depicted, the underdeveloped "Ms. Blakk for President" remains a work-in-progress. McCraney and Landau's script has wit along with a healthy dose of camp. The play, however, seems unsure of what it wants to be and the tone feels inconsistent as a result. Fantastical moments including Blakk's interactions with spiritual guides Marilyn Monroe (Smith) and David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust (also Smith, who, like most of the cast, takes on multiple roles) don't quite jibe with more realistic scenes, making for some clunky transitions."
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Barbara Vitello



Chicago Reader- Highly Recommended

"...in unearthing this lesser-known story, McCraney and Landau showcase the work of a queer pioneer who damn well knew she wouldn't reap the awards of her labor, and dug in her heels, anyway."
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Dan Jakes



Windy City Times- Highly Recommended

"...The past roars to the present in Steppenwolf Theatre's world premiere of Ms. Blakk for President. Co-authored by ensemble members Tina Landau ( who also directs ) and Tarell Alvin McCraney ( who also stars in the title role ), this raucously out and proud play vividly shines an theatrical spotlight on a lesser-known piece of LGBTQ American history to defiantly speak to our own times."
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Scott C. Morgan



Time Out Chicago- Highly Recommended

"...This queering of traditional theatrical boundaries-between audience and performer, stage and stalls-isn't new, but Landau and her performers commit to it with irresistible glee. The show itself, which follows Blakk as she goes from crashing local fundraisers to trying to pull the same stunt at Bill Clinton's coronation at Madison Square Garden, has much the same effect: Moments that might have fallen flat leave you swooning instead. Most historians may consider Blakk's campaign a footnote at best, but Ms. Blakk for President refuses to let her be consigned to the margins. The play stands astride history in six-inch heels, yelling at it to hurry the hell up."
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Alex Huntsberger



Stage and Cinema- Highly Recommended

"...It's both louder than life and strident with substance. The perfect play for Pride Month and a deafening blast from the past, Ms. Blakk for President, an uproarious and rambunctious rouser, gives a magnificent cause future reference. Created by ensemble members Tina Landau and Tarell Alvin McCraney for Steppenwolf, this 100-minute jubilee recreates a legendary 1992 run for the Presidency that plays right into today."
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Lawrence Bommer



Splash Magazine- Highly Recommended

"...This wasn’t really a “play” in the traditional sense. It was an evocation of a time and place, of mindsets in opposition and in coalition, and a fanciful spectacle of a deliberate if unformed and haphazard intervention into a set political event that yet altered the course of history. It is most timely to premiere this work during June, LGBT Pride Month, when we all must recognize the impact LGBT people have had in the world; regret those harmed through ignorance, hatred, and marginalization; and mourn those lost to the scourge of AIDS."
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Debra Davy



Let's Play at ChicagoNow- Recommended

"...'Ms. Blakk for President' is in every facet a true story, untold story, political story and a queer story, front and centered at the height of the AIDS epidemic set at the 1992 Democratic convention told 25 years later. Infused with music and hilarity, and the ambiance filled with celebration, and memories through the eyes of Terence Smith A.K.A. Joan Jett Blakk."
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Rick and Brenda McCain



Around The Town Chicago- Recommended

"...It is June and with this month comes summer ( supposedly) and Gay Pride Month. To honor Pride, Steppenwolf Theatre Company is presenting the World Premiere of "Ms.Blakk for President" written by Tina Landau ( who also directs) and Tarrell Alvin McCraney ( who plays Ms. Joan Jett Blakk a/k/a Terrance Alan Smith). The story is a part of what is being served in the Upstairs Theatre at Steppenwolf. The fact is, what you will experience is a party, a very wild party, in which a story breaks out!"
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Alan Bresloff



NewCity Chicago- Highly Recommended

"...All this intellect and entertainment wouldn't work without a sincerely capable cast: Daniel Kyri, Molly Brennan (who should really be the only actor playing mustachioed cowboys these days), Sawyer Smith, Patrick Andrews, Jon Hudson Odom and McCraney himself, who ties the six together with an incredibly generous performance."
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Jay Van Ort



WTTW- Highly Recommended

"...McCraney, who stars in this play that he co-wrote with Landau, is a phenomenal talent who began his career in Chicago with a haunting performance in the Northlight Theatre production of "Blue/Orange" in 2004, and has since gone on to win countless awards as a writer and actor, to serve as chair of playwrighting at the Yale School of Drama, and to write the script that became the source for the Oscar-winning film, "Moonlight." Tall, thin, graceful and emotionally raw, he is capable of moving from the most private emotions to the most exhibitionist showmanship as both an actor and writer, exposing the inner life of Ms. Blakk while also flaunting the persona that might be his truest self. It is quite the performance."
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Hedy Weiss



Chicago Theatre Review- Highly Recommended

"...This production must be seen by all theatre goers not despite the fact that it is queer, drag, and black but because it is queer, drag, and black. For centuries, people of diversity have watched white-washed, heteronormative stories and found instances that they could commiserate with. Themes presented by the script and cast such as people-pleasing, identity, dismantling the system or working with the system, and baton passing can be appreciated by every human being who walks in the theatre door. But for those who claim that the show might not contain experiences and themes that they can identify with or relate to, they can take a seat and get educated on something that is not directly pandering to them."
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Sophie Vitello



Chicagoland Theater Reviews- Recommended

"...It seems highly unlikely that "MS. BLAKK" will offend many people who will enter the Steppenwolf with the full knowledge and anticipation of what they will see and hear. The show succeeds as a good time evening garnished by a lot of raunchy humor. The message is there for those willing to absorb it, and the evocation of the AIDS crisis remains a "lest we forget" cautionary tale for all of us."
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Dan Zeff



Buzznews.net- Highly Recommended

"...And this work is self-aware – largely a farce, and admittedly so. But it does chronicle someone who made an important contribution to our poltiics and society, by any means necessary.” Ms. Blakk for President” is lots of fun, big laughs, and will also draw you to spontaneous applause for those political statements that rung even truer today."
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Bill Esler



Third Coast Review- Recommended

"...Steppenwolf Theatre is celebrating Ms. Blakk for President in a raucous, raunchy, rambunctious political party in the Upstairs Theatre. The play is the work of co-authors Tina Landau and Tarell Alvin McCraney. Landau directs and McCraney stars as the drag queen, bewigged in blonde and costumed in stiletto heels and micro-miniskirts."
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Nancy Bishop



Storefront Rebellion- Recommended

"...But I was plenty moved by the sharp evocation of just how pressing a crisis AIDS was in this moment, and how indifferent most of the world seemed to be about it. I was a little too young to have grieved the loss of whole groups of friends, as McCraney’s Joan and Patrick Andrews’s urgent activist Mark did. In the summer of 1992, I was 14 years old in Arkansas, and Bill Clinton was my state’s governor; as I watched him accept the Democratic nomination, I was still four years away from coming out myself, and the terror of AIDS was one of the things keeping me in."
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Kris Vire



Chicago On Stage- Recommended

"...So, what is Ms. Blakk For President? A play? A party? A polemic? A proud look down memory lane? The answer is that it is all of these things at once (with the polemic part thankfully kept in check). As Pride month begins, Steppenwolf shines a rainbow light on this small but important piece of LGBT history, and invites the audience to help them to celebrate. Whatever else Ms. Blakk may be, it is joyous and infectious. And don’t miss the pre-show; you’ll be sorry."
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Karen Topham



Picture This Post- Somewhat Recommended

"...Within Queen Nation and the LGBTQ community, there are competing and conflicting voices. We get a taste of them in these scenes. In this viewer’s opinion, they are worthy of more attention, as is the personal journey of Blakk as she moves from her Chicago haunt to a national stage. There’s also a fair amount of repetition and preaching to the choir. But for those who are curious about this little-known chapter of Chicago history – and enjoy disco dancing and fabulous drag garb – MS BLAKK FOR PRESIDENT is a show to catch."
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Susan Lieberman