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  The First Deep Breath Reviews
The First Deep Breath
The First Deep Breath

The First Deep Breath
Victory Gardens Theater - Biograph
Thru - Dec 22, 2019

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Victory Gardens Theater - Biograph

  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune- Recommended

"...there is much to admire in this production, beginning with direction that is aptly acerbic, pointed and unstinting. There is not a weak actor in the cast and, while Williams is the clear stand-out, performers like Lowe, Agada, Loren and Reed-Foster all forge rich characters, fighting to be heard. Chances like these rarely come for actors, and everyone here grabs and wrestles with the opportunity. This play needs another draft for sure and some hard choices have to be made, but this is a writer working outside of the usual parameters of today's cautious dramas from over-educated playwrights, and going all the way, damn the cost."
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Chris Jones



Chicago Sun Times- Highly Recommended

"..."The First Deep Breath," the marvelously ambitious new family drama that opened Friday night at Victory Gardens, is bound to be compared to "August: Osage County," Tracy Letts' similarly sprawling saga that became a Broadway phenomenon and a Pulitzer Prize winner after premiering at Steppenwolf a dozen years ago."
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Kris Vire



Chicago Reader- Highly Recommended

"...But unlike the sexually arid world of Letts's troubled Weston clan, Colston's play draws the same connections between spiritual and sexual freedom that Baldwin embodied in his work. The performances are virtuosic across the board, from Reed-Foster's take-no-prisoners demands for respect to Anderson's terrifying rage as a man whose hard-as-nails demeanor can only partially hide that he is wounded to the soul. The tragedy is that he cannot find a way out of the darkness without damaging those around him. The revelation is that his children find the courage to sing, shout, and testify as they seek their own light."
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Kerry Reid



Windy City Times- Highly Recommended

"...The complexity involved in deploying eight performers over a three-level interior could easily reduce traffic patterns to slapstick chaos, but director Steve H. Broadnax III and an array of astute designers have familiarized the cast with the infrastructure of their dramatic environment to render them aware of every staircase, door-latch and impediment ( a Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings, for example ) concealing potential to upset the equilibrium of actors less physically and mentally agile than those assembled for this noteworthy production."
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Mary Shen Barnidge



Let's Play at ChicagoNow- Highly Recommended

"...The First Deep Breath is a persuasive and gripping story that finds each member of the Jones family desperately fighting to take a breath and become free. That old saying, "a family that prays together stays together," does not work here. In the end, a "Family Feud" breaks out, and when the lights go dark, no one is coming together, claiming victory."
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Rick and Brenda McCain



Around The Town Chicago- Recommended

"...We become intimately familiar with the Joneses and their family dynamics during the course of the 3-1/2-hour marathon. "I feel like I'm binge-watching," said one audience member to another during the second intermission. Indeed, the three-act play seems more like watching three TV episodes back to back, because some surprising admission or admonition belies the end of each act."
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Julia W. Rath



NewCity Chicago- Recommended

"...If the American Theater is going to insist on keeping the living room play around then "The First Deep Breath" serves as a shining example of how the form-archaic and stationary as it is-can evolve and shift. This is the scale, scope and grand epic nature of playwriting that theater historians have glorified for so long but through a lens that has rarely been granted an opportunity to craft a narrative of this heft and ambition. I don't believe in the Perfect Play, and "The First Deep Breath" is definitely not perfect, but like AJ tells us, "There's beauty in broken things, if you're brave enough not to hide the cracks." In that case, Colston II's play may be the bravest play of the year."
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Ben Kaye



Chicago Theatre Review- Recommended

"...Thereís so much to admire in Lee Edward Colstonís new play. The drama entertains while it exposes the secrets and lies this family has buried inside. The problem is that there are so many problems and revelations that the audience finds it difficult to absorb everything. Just as a theatergoer is trying to understand and empathize with one characterís experiences, Mr. Colston has another family member announce another set of problems. Itís simply overwhelming within a three+ hour drama. At some point we simply stop caring about this family and start tuning out. The overwhelming litany of confessions and occurrences begin to appear almost comical. Thereís enough conflicts in this one drama to fill the plot of three plays. Hopefully Mr. Colston, after watching and listening to the audiencesí reactions, will make some much-needed cuts and adjustments because this is an important play on the brink of perfection."
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Colin Douglas



Chicagoland Theater Reviews- Highly Recommended

"...Colstonís script could not be served by a better cast. All eight members of the ensemble performed with such conviction and stamina that the viewer doesnít have time to take a breath to consider whether the play perhaps suffers from dramatic overload. And there were times when the audience collectively giggled as still another bombshell was dropped, but that giggle may have been a reflexive reaction to the playís intensity and what-next narrative twists and turns. In any case, the brilliance of the production is a remarkable collaboration among the playwright, director Steve H. Broadnax III, and the extraordinary ensemble."
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Dan Zeff



In The Loop Magazine- Highly Recommended

"...This is truly as good as it gets when it comes to American theater, and you should make an absolute effort to see "The First Deep Breath" - if tickets are even still available."
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Peter Thomas Ricci



Chicago On Stage- Highly Recommended

"...The family's inevitable meltdown is well-earned, too, and each of the three acts of the play contains powerful scenes that bond the family as they tear it apart. This play vaults Colston into the pantheon of writers like August Wilson who show us life with all of its joys, laughter, pain, and limitations. He is a playwright we will hear much more from."
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Karen Topham



Picture This Post- Highly Recommended

"...It is quite possible that youíd like to get to this production with enough time before the first notes of the gospel hymns. This will allow you to have a few moments to let your eyes feast on the intricate set of pastor Albert Jonesí house. The two-story house features a long family dining room, a stairway with a private office, a living room with a small couch, and a set of gaming equipment. On a mantle, the portrait of a beloved daughter, sister and twin Diane, stands perched smiling next to an urn of her ashes."
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Tonika Todorova