Credit: Joel Maisonet

Hoo-boy. Good intentions pave a path off the deep end in Collaboraction’s
ensemble-derived season finale, which reenacts pivotal moments in Chicago’s
history of violence inflicted by whites upon people of color. A ten-person
ensemble presents a living 4-D exhibit at the fictional Chicago Racism
Museum, teaching and role-playing its way through a litany of flash points
and milestones in the city’s civil rights history, ranging from the 1919
race riots to Harold Washington’s mayoral election to the uncovering of
Chicago Police Department abuses at Homan Square.

Dual projections by video designers Liviu Passare and Parker Langvardt, set
against parallel scrims by scenic designer Jose Manual Diaz-Soto, create a
clever multimedia playing space that doubles as an effective educational
tool for illustrating complex macroconcepts like redlining. The
storytelling format chosenby director and creator Anthony Moseley, though,
presents a unique acting challenge for his cast, who have to leapfrog from
one horrific emotional climax to the next as if hitting the “random
article” tab on Wikipedia.

Where things get truly egregious is in the first-act coda and
metatheatrical second act. Having infiltrated the troupe and rehearsed
until opening night, a white supremacist ensemble member—which . . .
OK—guns down the museum director during a psych-out curtain call.
Postintermission, the ensemble re-create their real-life day-one rehearsal
of the (first-act) “museum piece,” ice-breaker exercises and stage manager
instructions included, where they collectively gawk at the conclusion and
engage in a passionate discussion about the violent scene’s merits. About
75 minutes in, we finally get an authentic, around-the-horn rundown of the
cast’s relationship to race as the performers each briefly discuss their
family heritage and how their race conditions and informs different aspects
of their day-to-day lives, but at that point, the conversation is wrapped
in so many layers of contrivance that it’s like a phyllo pastry of
navel-gazing theatre.   v