Chicago Theater Review: CRIME SCENE: A CHICAGO ANTHOLOGY (Collaboraction)

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by Erika Mikkalo on February 21, 2013

in Theater-Chicago


With fifty-two murders to date in 2013 as I write this review – over a murder a day – the death toll in Chicago seems as ubiquitous as it is tragic. Collaboraction Theatre Company strives to raise awareness, puncture apathy, and perhaps even instigate change in their new work Crime Scene: A Chicago Anthology. This ensemble piece Erika Mikkalo's Stage and Cinema review of Collaboraction’s “Crime Scene: A Chicago Anthology”was created by the company as well as area activists from organizations such as Embarc, the McCormick Tribune YMCA, and Precious Blood Ministry. The work is earnest and well-intended, and such plays sometimes carry the association of preaching to proverbial converts, affirming the perspective of a dire need for change among the already-informed, those who bear witness or are at least inclined to see the right documentaries and read the grim statistics, but not reverberating past this particular audience. The success of this work as theater indicates its potential to reach beyond its black box space and start vital conversations, and yes, even incite actions needed to staunch the flow of blood in Chicago streets.

Erika Mikkalo's Stage and Cinema review of Collaboraction’s “Crime Scene: A Chicago Anthology”Director Anthony Moseley conceived and successfully constructed this work of ten parts that include history, incarceration, interrogation, crime scenes, found commentary and short speeches from informed parties. The relative complexity of the content mirrors the actuality of the issue, and the cast brings authority to the execution. Scott Baity Jr., Victoria Blade, Luis Crespo, Miranda Gonzalez, Michael Johnson, Eddie Jordan III, Laura Korn, James Lynch, Patrese McClain, Eamonn McDonagh, Niall McGinty, Medina Perine, Shavac Prakash, Lisandra Tena and Eric Walker adeptly alternate roles ranging from priest to murderer, cop to criminal, victim to perp. They portray those bearing the burden, or even the wounds, of a problem that is honestly presented as one specific to this city.

Erika Mikkalo's Stage and Cinema review of Collaboraction’s “Crime Scene: A Chicago Anthology”An overview of violence in Chicago opens the performance. The Valentine’s Day Massacre and Haymarket Riots are part of general American historical knowledge, but the litany here includes the 1919 Race Riots, Memorial Day Massacre, Division Street and Martin Luther King Riots, and the state-sanctioned brutality of segregation. The play springs from historical context to fully contemporary horrors: Conflicts between young gang members escalate on social media, and a willingness to shout out your location can make you a target.

Erika Mikkalo's Stage and Cinema review of Collaboraction’s “Crime Scene: A Chicago Anthology”The drama then illuminates the social ills that contribute to the crisis: Regions called “Terror Town”; smaller gangs with less structured leadership bringing more violence; and children who live within five miles of Lake Michigan and have never seen its waters. Three specific incidents are explored in detail: the 2000 killing of a twelve year old boy, Orlando Patterson, in a case of mistaken identity; rapper Joseph Coleman – Lil Jojo’s – recent murder culminating from a conflict that started on YouTube and Twitter, and the vicious baseball-bat beating of Stacy Jurich and Natasha McShane in 2010 within blocks of the Flat Iron Arts Building where this performance took place.

Erika Mikkalo's Stage and Cinema review of Collaboraction’s “Crime Scene: A Chicago Anthology”Crime Scene succeeds by anticipating and addressing the accusation of presumptuousness, of an art-can-save-the-world perspective when confronted with an issue that has confounded so many. In one scene, ensemble members visit a juvenile detention unit for “career day,” suggesting that you, too, can transmute your personal pain for fun and prizes. The incarcerated youth seem appropriately skeptical, but then the actors tell their stories, and the empathy that can spark change is ignited on stage.

A comic critique of the frequent vapidity of local newscasts and a monologue by an unblushingly frank cop provide appreciated levity, something understandably difficult to inject in a work that confronts the increasing number of casualties in the city. The social setting that starts the evening – the stage becomes an arena of enforced mingling, complete with music and cocktails – seems off but makes sense in a setting with the goal of building bridges between individuals, communities, and organizations. The spirited discussion following the premiere suggested that for that evening, at least, the ensemble had achieved their goal.

Erika Mikkalo's Stage and Cinema review of Collaboraction’s “Crime Scene: A Chicago Anthology”

photos by Cesario Moza

Crime Scene: A Chicago Anthology
Flat Iron Arts Building, 1579 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Wicker Park
scheduled to end on March 10, 2013
EXTENDED to April 7, 2013
for tickets, call 312.226.9633 or visit

for info on this and other Chicago Theater, visit

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