Spotlight: American Blues Theater’s ‘Reclamation’ examines history, identity

Chicago premiere

After the Civil War ends, Madison Hemings, son of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, and former enslaved footman Israel Jefferson return to Monticello searching for Israel’s long-lost brother. Their search gets sidetracked when Madison decides to claim what’s left of his birthright as the son of an American president, prompting the men to face their conflicting feelings about the author of the Declaration of Independence in “The Reclamation of Madison Hemings” by Charles Smith. American Blues Theater’s Chicago premiere is directed by ensemble member and Goodman Theatre resident director Chuck Smith. Jon Hudson Odom (Madison Hemings) and ABT ensemble member Manny Buckley (Israel Jefferson) star. Previews at 7:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday, Feb. 16-18, and Wednesday, Feb. 21, at 5627 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. The show opens Thursday, Feb. 22. $25-$55, plus a $4.50 ticket fee. (773) 654-3103 or

Manny Buckley plays Israel Jefferson in American Blues Theater's Chicago premiere of “The Reclamation of Madison Hemings.”

Marriott’s ‘peach’

Director Tommy Rapley describes Marriott Theatre’s family-friendly production of “James and the Giant Peach,” the musical adapted from Roald Dahl’s novel, as “the perfect blend of playful, spooky, heartwarming, mysterious, imaginative and downright hilarious storytelling.” Kai Edgar plays James, who having been sent to chop down a fruit tree, discovers a magic potion that sparks “an expedition of enormous proportions.” Previews at 10 a.m. Friday through Monday, Feb. 16-19, and Feb. 23 at 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire. The show opens Feb. 24. $15.75, plus taxes and fees. (847) 634-0200 or

‘Thriller in rhyme’

Jackalope Theatre Company launches its 16th season with the Chicago premiere of “The Smuggler,” Ronan Noone’s solo “thriller in rhyme” play about an Irish immigrant bartender who’s drawn into the world of human smuggling after his child falls ill and he loses his job. Andrew Burden Swanson stars as the titular character in director Gus Menary’s production. Previews at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 16-17, at Berger Park, 6205 N. Sheridan Road, Chicago. The show opens Tuesday, Feb. 20. $15-$25. (773) 340-2543 or

‘R & J’ with a twist

PrideArts presents an all-female production of William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” Adapted by Joe Calarco and directed by Amber Mandley, “Shakespeare’s R & J” unfolds at a boarding school where the students act out the play at night. PrideArts’ production marks the first Chicago production in 14 years. Previews at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 22-24, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 25, at 4139 N. Broadway, Chicago. The show opens Feb. 26. $25, $35. (773) 857-0222 or

Kayla Franklin played Mamie Till-Bradley in Collaboraction’s stage production of “Trial in the Delta: The Murder of Emmett Till.” The film version premieres Feb. 22 in Highland Park. Courtesy of Joel Maisonet

‘Trial in the Delta’ film premiere

Collaboraction Theatre Company premieres the film version of its theatrical work “Trial in the Delta: The Murder of Emmett Till,” adapted from the 1955 trial transcript of Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, who were charged with lynching the young Chicago boy who was accused of whistling at a white woman in Mississippi. Collaboraction’s original live staging of “Trial in the Delta” was filmed during a live performance last year at The DuSable Museum of Black History. 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 22, at Wayfarer Theaters, 1850 Second St., Highland Park. $20. (872) 873-1030 or

‘Twilight’ parody

Performances continue for Otherworld Theatre’s premiere of “Twihard! A Twilight Musical Parody,” a comical take on the “Twilight” saga about the love triangle between a human woman and her suitors: a vampire and a werewolf. Director Tiffany Keane Schaefer wrote the book and lyrics. Brian Rasmussen composed the score. 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday through March 10 at 3914 N. Clark St., Chicago. $30.

Theaters receive grants

Chicago’s Definition Theater and TimeLine Theatre Company received grants from the Bayless Family Foundation, which provides each ensemble with $180,000 over three years. The foundation also awarded one-time Signal Grants to the Chicago Children’s Theatre and Remy Bumppo Theatre Company to assist them in responding to community needs. The foundation will provide, in total, about $670,000 to aid in the artistic growth and sustainability of local theaters.

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