It’s Showdown Time, ETA Creative Arts Foundation. Don Evans’s 1970s update of The Taming of the Shrew is a Punch-and-Judy show as bawdy and politically incorrect as its Elizabethan inspiration. Watching it can seem a guilty pleasure, like catching reruns of The Jeffersons on cable. Set in a neighborhood that puts one in mind of Catfish Row, it features a man with two daughters who has a hard time finding a match for his argumentative eldest, Rosa (Makeba Ayo Pace). A charismatic stranger, Adam (Paul Mabon Jr.), penetrates her defenses by consistently affirming positive qualities only he can see. Still, it isn’t clear that this horny, highfalutin’ interloper can be trusted.
In some circles, ETA Creative Arts has a “chitlins circuit” reputation. Yet one could argue that, more than other Chicago troupes, it represents “popular theater” in the Brechtian sense, appealing to a broad audience by adopting the standpoint and expressive style of working-class people. ETA, it seems, is the vaudeville of African-American Chicago.
Under the direction of Charles Michael Moore, Martrice Edge as a meddling neighbor delivers her usual strong comic performance. Woody Bolar is engaging as the sly drunk who cleans up, under Adam’s influence, to become a shy suitor. A three-man chorus does double duty, alternately commenting on the action and crooning songs from the era–and everyone in the audience knows the words.