Expertly written, exquisitely performed, steamy, and hilarious, The October Storm at the Raven Theatre offers a warm slice of south-side Chicago life in the 1960s. Joshua Allen’s play, the second in his Grand Boulevard Trilogy (the first was The Last Pair of Earlies, produced by Raven in 2021) is refreshing in that it explores the depth and humanity of Black life without being tethered to the specter of racism. The outstanding ensemble cast is anchored by powerhouse actor Shariba Rivers, who plays Mrs. Elkins, the tightly wound young grandmother in desperate need of a reason to let her spine slip. Rivers’s portrayal of the terse matriarch is wry and profound as her inescapable gravity suspends the other characters for better or worse.
The October Storm
Through 6/25: Thu-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 3 PM; touch tour Sun 6/11 1:45 PM; Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark, 773-338-2177, raventheatre.com, $40 (students, active military, and veterans $15)
Jaeda LaVonne is deliciously petulant in her portrayal of Gloria, Mrs. Elkins’s naive and unmoored granddaughter, bursting at the seams with teenage angst. A delightful Brandon J. Sapp provides the perfect counterweight as Crutch, Gloria’s boyfriend, chipper and earnestly dorky. Felisha D. McNeal is an absolute comedic genius, keeping the audience in stitches from her very first line as Lucille, the jolly, busybody neighbor with the heart of gold. Nathaniel Andrew provides the catalyst for this story as the charming army vet Louis, his presence a lightning bolt of change to their predictable lives.
Director Malkia Stampley doesn’t miss a single beat in this richly layered tale, including thoughtful scene transitions that further the storyline and keep you deeply immersed in the storytelling every moment. A rich and nuanced exploration of identity, longing, trauma, and hope, The October Storm is as refreshing as the rain.