Any play that begins with the ensemble addressing the audience directly automatically has work to do to win my interest back--such speeches too often have no purpose other than to tell audiences what emotions they are supposed to feel in the hours ahead. However, Definition's production of Moon Man Walk by James Ijames manages to create a few genuinely touching moments in its Chicago premiere.
The script, which follows Definition's excellent production of An Octoroon, follows a young man returning to home after his mother’s death. The text touches on several important themes but unfortunately fails to explore any of them in-depth, creating a quite slight (but highly energetic) 85 minutes at the theatre.
The ensemble of four is led by Debo Balogun as Monarch, and the young performer is quite likeable in the leading role. He is surrounded by Chanell Bell, Shadan Patterson, and Michael Anthony Rawlins, who each play various roles in Monarch’s life. But the swiftness with which this multitude of characters is introduced never quite allows us to get to know any of them or the profundity of their effect on Monarch. The gravity of their existence in his past and his present is somewhat lost by the caricuture-esque portraits presented.
The designs are fitting enough, simple but not quite as visually pleasing as previous productions from Definition. The staging and transitions are serviceable for the space, but Tyla Abercrumbie's direction features no surprises.
Yet, the company commitment's to telling stories that reflect modern America and their incredible work to support disenfranchised voices even in their short history ensures me that Definition Theatre will take off, even if their current production doesn't.
Review by Emily Schmidt
Moon Man Walk continues at Victory Gardens Theater through Feb 25. More info here.
The Hawk Chicago is included in TheatreinChicago's Review Round-Up.