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  Unspeakable at Broadway Playhouse


Broadway Playhouse
175 East Chestnut Street Chicago

Sex, Drugs and Comedy. Unspeakable is an unflinching ride through the emotional landscape of Richard Pryor spanning sixty-one years and focused on the period between 1967 and 1982. Born and raised in a Peoria brothel owned and operated by his grandmother, Pryor faced situations that forever shaped and scarred his sensitive soul. With a pimp for a father and his mother a whore, young Pryor's imagination allowed him to escape and ultimately led him to comedy. Unspeakable captures the energy of a man battling success and the demons it invites.

Thru - Nov 8, 2015

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

Price: $35-$79

Show Type: Comedy/Drama

Running Time: 2hrs, 10mins

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  Unspeakable Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune - Somewhat Recommended

"...Jackson's performance is, in fact, a very potent and impressive piece of acting, although the show is such a mess that few will see that as clearly as the performance deserves. He understands the improvisational genius of his subject. And - more importantly - Jackson gets the way Pryor did not so much deliver material as allow that material to inhabit his body. Pryor was merely a vessel for Pryor. Jackson makes that work. No mean feat, that, in this kind of chaos."
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Chris Jones

Chicago Reader - Not Recommended

"...Instead, we get histrionic, hallucinatory depictions of Pryor’s rotten childhood, philandering, and drug abuse—all accompanied by choral commentary from a giant rat. Head scratchers like that aside, the show does Pryor (and the audience) a disservice by reducing him to nothing more than the terrible things that were done to him and that he did to others. His bold and bracing stand-up becomes almost an afterthought. "
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Zac Thompson

Gapers Block - Recommended

"...Unspeakable unapologetically embraces the paradox of Pryor's existence, revealing the man who wanted the world to love more and the same man who couldn't find the tools to do so in his personal life. What better evidence could there be against the painful, lingering effects of racism then to show the result of generations of institutional poverty and racial degradation on one ambitious and intelligent man who once said about his work "Two things people throughout history have had in common are hatred and humor. I am proud that, like Mark Twain, I have been able to use humor to lessen people's hatred.""
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Kim Campbell

Time Out Chicago - Recommended

"...At times Unspeakable is so dark as to feel almost unwatchable. This isn’t helped by the play’s more fantastical elements: Stuff like a dead rat, played by Taryn Reneau, which haunts Richard throughout his life and a flowing, hallucinatory timeline just end up muddying the waters. They don’t heighten the material; they only confuse it. Pryor’s story and his stand-up were dramatic enough; no fantasia is needed."
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Alex Huntsberger

Stage and Cinema - Somewhat Recommended

"...Broadway in Chicago's world premiere makes sure we see the suffering behind the hilarity, the loneliness behind the laughter. Unfortunately, numbed by the nastiness, we don't see the humor-and there was plenty! Even the supposed comic bits, when Pryor indulges in scatological dialogue with a white hand puppet, is too cruel to convulse. It's not edifying to see a damaged child turn famous and stay broken."
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Lawrence Bommer

ChicagoCritic - Not Recommended

"...The result is an unvaried cacophony that pours so much ugliness into the ears of the listener, anything human enough to be tragic gets drowned out. At opening night, a steady stream of people fled the theatre, and they presumably knew they were going to a play about Richard Pryor. Unspeakable would have an interesting story if it were more balanced between calmness, giddiness, and rage, or between laughter and hurt, or wisdom and mouth-frothing, but the presentation is a disaster."
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Jacob Davis

Around The Town Chicago - Not Recommended

"..."Unspeakable", the new "dramatic fantasia" about the life of Richard Pryor is not a good play. It is vulgar, profane (more uses of the 'n' word than I've ever heard) and not at all funny. If it's to go any further, it will need a lot of work. Unfortunately, I will never get those two hours back."
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Carol Moore

Chicagoland Theater Reviews - Not Recommended

"...The play was written by Jackson and director Ron Gailes OBC. What they came up with doesn’t work. The real Pryor’s language didn’t pull any punches. His discourses were witty, shrewd, and pungent. But “Unspeakable” is a farrago of aggressive and obscenity-dominated verbosity that doesn’t explain why we should be sitting in a theater watching this man swear and lash out for well over two hours. The Pryor of “Unspeakable” is not the Pryor who revolutionized modern stand-up comedy."

Dan Zeff

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