Do Lord Remember Me, Chicago Theatre Company. Rarely is history more palpable than when we hear first-person stories of the past. And in Do Lord Remember Me, a play with music and dance, James de Jongh has compiled the personal histories of former slaves who were in their 80s and 90s and living in an old folks’ home (“for colored”) in the 1930s, when their stories were recorded by the WPA Federal Writers’ Project. Looking back on their lives, they share both the brutality they suffered and the faith that sustained them. De Jongh’s play is by turns poetic and deeply humorous–and always soulful, as the characters’ narratives are woven into a collective history that should be seen and heard by families of all cultures.

Lisa M. Duncan’s smooth direction makes the bridges from one story to another effortless. And the ultratalented cast of five support one another onstage throughout: clearly they connect with the will to survive that infuses their characters. Choreographer Eva D. and musical director Delano O’Banion should also be recognized, for the songs and dances do as much as the words to establish the strong character of these former slaves.

–Gabrielle S. Kaplan