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Audiences Herald THE ISLAND As “Riveting”

Ronald L. Conner and Kai A. Ealy by Michael Brosliow.

With a full house and a rapt audience, opening night for The Island was a success! Attendees were captivated, and reviewers’ praise was nothing short of effusive, calling this production “profoundly moving,” “one of the finest anti-apartheid plays ever penned,” and “courageous.” We’re immensely proud of this production, both for its message and for the fact that it marks Associate Artistic Director Gabrielle Randle-Bent‘s first solo-directed show at Court, and this is one you won’t want to miss.

Join John and Winston. Fight for justice. Get your tickets to The Island today.

“One of the finest anti-apartheid plays ever penned…Ealy and Conner both dive courageously into the quotidian lives of their characters and their relationship is strong enough here to explore one of the play’s most important themes: the skill of the apartheid regime at turning one prisoner against another…The note of hope in this play, and it is rightly centered in this unpretentious and powerful production, is that the human spirit is far harder to defeat than the body. This was a prescient theme, given that this prison’s most famous resident went on to become president of a changed South Africa.”

— Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune, 3.5 out of 4 stars 

“Exquisitely paced and intellectually explosive, The Island at Court Theatre is a profoundly moving work of art. From the first moment, this production (directed by Gabrielle Randle-Bent, Court’s associate artistic director) seizes the audience and thrusts them into the world of two political prisoners of apartheid and doesn’t let go, even long after the play (written by Athol Fugard, John Kani, and Winston Ntshona) has ended…The Island is a riveting, philosophically sophisticated play that is a must-see for fans of meaty theater.”

Chicago Reader, Reader Recommended

“Brotherhood, tyranny, unjust incarceration, revolution — there’s much to unpack thematically in The Island, but Randle-Bent propels the dialogue with a clarity that shines like a knife and an urgency that can’t be denied…Creativity, solidarity and honor can endure, even in places designed to crush them. In Court’s production, that endurance is grounded in the herculean, intensely physical performances by Conner and Ealy. Movement director Jacinda Ratcliffe powers the production with grueling physicality requiring some serious athleticism. Conner and Ealy deliver it with prowess while still being wholly believable as prisoners battered within an inch of their lives.

Chicago Sun-Times, 3.5 out of 4 stars

“Everything is top notch in this performance…The real power behind this great production was the new Associate Artistic Director Gabrielle Randle-Bent…She brings out the humanity between these two great actors. You can feel the empathy that she wanted the audience to feel. She brings the authors, John and Winston, to new heights. Athol Fugard wrote the words to the play, but John and Winston are telling the story of their life.”

Around the Town Chicago, 5 out of 5 stars

“Ronald L. Conner (Winston) and Kai A. Ealy (John) provided a masterful performance throughout, and their portrayal of Creon and Antigone was so riveting it was like seeing two plays. Conner, who is without question becoming one of Chicago’s must-see male actors, is brilliant as Winston, and his South African accent, was exceptional. Kai A. Ealy was also impressive as John. The thorough [intensity] between the two men honestly had you believing you were in prison with him, battling for freedom.”

Let’s Play Theatrical Reviews, Recommended

“Director Gabrielle Randle-Bent brings nuance, drawing out the resilience of humanity against violence without showing violent acts.The transformation that takes place is phenomenal.…The Island asks us, as members of a society, to consider how much inhumanity we deem as tolerable. That the answer is “any” shines a light on the fact that, amid unprecedented social progress, we still have work to do.

NewCity Stage, Recommended

“Throughout the production, Gabrielle Randle-Bent’s direction remained imaginative and fascinating. You’d expect a two person play to be tight and focused, but Randle-Bent’s guidance also enhanced the play’s urgency and purpose…Both actors deliver shimmering performances. Their words slash with elegant precision, creating a powerful scene of conflict between wills. Just as they do now and they did in ancient Greece, the same battles of domination and resistance have been raging for thousands of years all around the globe.”

City Pleasures

“[The Island] is receiving a sharp and impressive [re-imagining] at Court Theatre under the excellent direction of Associate Artistic Director Gabrielle Randle-Bent…I remember the scenic designer Yeaji Kim through her work at American Blues’ production of “Fences” as well as her work with Griffin Theatre. She once again shows her unbelievable imagination…The movement of the sun, the unforgiving sun, was perfected by lighting designer Jason Lynch. Michael Keith Morgan is a genius. Kai and Ronald’s South African accents were EXCELLENT! Please see The Island at Court Theatre, it’s as important now as it was 50 years ago.”

— Buzz Center Stage

“It is a testament to the courage of its creators and a reminder of  resilience and humanity in the face of adversity…The real payoff comes in the final scene, a searing performance of a truncated Antigone with John’s Creon forcefully laying out the state’s case, and Winston’s Antigone, arguably the first political activist to sacrifice herself for a cause, arguing that there is a moral authority higher than the state.”

Hyde Park Herald

Posted on November 22, 2022 in Productions

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