Performance Music

For the last 17 years, San Francisco-based performers Idris Ackamoor and Rhodessa Jones have been crafting heartfelt, socially conscious two- and three-person shows that explore such charged political and social issues as racism, anti-Semitism, and spousal abuse. They’ve also been very, very entertaining, a trick they manage by refusing to compromise their art for the sake of their message. The intensely moving 1991 I Think It’s Gonna Work Out Fine, for example, tells the story of an R & B duo who, like Ike and Tina Turner, rose from the slums of East Saint Louis to the top of their profession only to be done in by their personal demons: he drank, did drugs, and beat her, and she put up with it way too long, fearing rejection and responsibility. That show comes down on the right side of issues like marital violence and chemical addiction, yet Ackamoor and Jones never pound their points of view home. Instead they draw us in with their acting, enthrall us with their music (Ackamoor is an accomplished alto saxophonist, and Jones sings), and then allow us to draw our own conclusions. In Performance Music, a part of Steppenwolf’s daring “Traffic” series, Ackamoor and Jones will perform selections from their most successful shows–including I Think It’s Gonna Work Out Fine; Jones’s evening of storytelling, The Blue Stories: Black Erotica on Letting Go; and Ackamoor’s Shoehorn!, a tragicomic meditation on the relations between African-Americans and Jews–as well as some new work. Steppenwolf Theatre Company, 1650 N. Halsted, 312-335-1650. Monday, June 8, 7:30 PM. $25.

–Jack Helbig

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Lorraine Capparell and Lars Speyer.