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Stoked about STOKELY

A group of people stand onstage holding protest signs that say, "Say his name."
Photo of Melanie Brezill, Kelvin Roston Jr., Anthony Irons, and Dee Dee Batteast by Michael Brosilow.

The world premiere of Stokely: The Unfinished Revolution – the newest work from Nambi E. Kelley (Native Son), directed by Tasia A. Jones – is a bold offering to the theatrical canon. Detailing the transformation of civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael from man to icon, his pursuit to preserve his legacy, and his cherished relationship with his mother, Stokely is inspiring critics and audiences alike.

Stokely: The Unfinished Revolution runs through Sunday, June 16. Tickets are available online or by calling the Box Office at  (773) 753-4472.

“[Anthony] Irons has distinguished himself as a Chicago actor for years but this is perhaps the best work of his career here (and I’ve seen plenty of it). Building on the idea of a pressurized young activist, the actor’s body never is still for a second as the political energy galvanizing Carmichael’s brain extends out, it feels, to the tips of his fingers and edges of his toes. Irons always is a present-tense actor, a performer who lives in the moment and makes you feel like anything can happen, an ideal quality for a play about the past, especially one with only a small cast. Irons is very ably supported by an exceptionally experienced ensemble, including Kelvin Roston Jr., superb as King, Wandachristine as May Charles (Carmichael’s mother), Dee Dee Batteast and Melanie Brezill, an actress who invariably brings emotional resonance. The show is superbly directed, too.”

— Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune, 3 out of 4 stars

“[Nambi E.] Kelley, [Tasia A.] Jones, and the ensemble (particularly [Anthony] Irons) deserve much praise for giving the unfinished story of this compelling force for radical change the intelligent and moving narrative he deserves.”

— Chicago Reader, Reader Recommended

Stokely: The Unfinished Revolution provides insight and background into one of U.S. history’s most towering and misunderstood revolutionaries. After suffering abandonment, vicious attacks, imprisonment and a vision not yet realized, Ture’s message is still one of hope, and his story is as relevant today as it was during his lifetime.”

— Newcity Stage

Stokely: The Unfinished Revolution is a masterful portrayal of [Stokely] Carmichael’s life’s work and his beginnings. Anthony Irons (Stokely Carmicheal/Kwame Ture) delivers an extraordinary performance, seamlessly transitioning between scenes and embodying the character. The entire cast, under the phenomenal direction of Tasia A. Jones, does an excellent job of making the ensemble’s character changes fluid and easy to follow. Nambi E. Kelly’s incredible talent shines through her creative incorporation of many historical perspectives, clearly showing how Stokely’s formative years impacted his journey as a leader.”

— Chicago Splash Magazines

“Anthony Irons does a star turn…It is not an imitation but an embodiment of a flesh-and-blood man who gave his life for the cause of Black empowerment and Pan-Africanism…You should see it.”

— Third Coast Review

“[Tasia A.] Jones’s direction shines with emotional depth, sharp focus, and a remarkable ability to elicit compelling performances from her actors. She adeptly handles a challenging script, showcasing her exceptional directorial skills. The ensemble’s stellar performance is a testament to her distinct and impactful style…In capturing the essence of a man who was both a pivotal figure in the civil rights movement and a son, Stokely: The Unfinished Revolution provides a powerful theatrical experience. It serves as a reminder of Carmichael’s enduring impact and the personal sacrifices that underpin the fight for social justice. The performances, direction, and design elements coalesce to create a compelling and thought-provoking tribute to a man whose revolution, indeed, remains unfinished.”

— Buzz Center Stage

“The timing of reconsidering Carmichael’s legacy seems right, following the movements spurred by the killing of George Floyd. And as a theatrical subject, Carmichael makes much sense. Drama thrives on conflict, and if one thing can be said of Stokely Carmichael, it’s that he most certainly didn’t shy away from clashes, or provocative ideas…The production from director Tasia A. Jones has a graceful fluidity, and the ensemble delivers deeply engaged performances”

— Chicago Sun-Times

“Yeaji Kim’s versatile set allows us to use our collective imagination to envision Stokely [Carmichael]’s writing den in Conakry, Guinea, in 1998, as well a prison, a schoolroom, sites for rallies, and so on. Above all, this moveable set nicely captures the desegregation of the lunch counters. Costume design by Gregory Graham could not have been more appropriate for the era, and I especially liked the traditional attire worn by Stokely’s South African wife Miriam Makeba. Ruben D. Echoles hair and wig design works well in allowing us to differentiate among the various female characters. But perhaps the best element of the show is the lighting…the absolutely brilliant work by Daphne Agosin (which should win all sorts of awards)”

— Around the Town Chicago

“Stokely’s ability to find strength amidst the bitter struggle for liberation may offer courage to those who follow him.”

— Chicago Stage and Screen

“The dynamic pace of the dialogue and the seamless transition of the actors into various characters captivate the audience, making this play enthralling.”

— Let’s Play Theatrical Reviews, 4 stars

Posted on June 5, 2024 in Productions

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