Theater Review: The Dreams of Sarah Breedlove at Goodman

Regina Taylor, actress, writer and director, adds another achievement to her repertoire with The Dreams of Sarah Breedlove. Playing at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, this intense drama relates the life of Sarah Breedlove, a washer woman who becomes Madam C.J. Walker, the first black woman to become a millioniare. Her fortune was made by establishing hairdressing parlors and marketing a product guaranteed to “anti-kink” hair. Investing in real estate proved profitable, and in 1917 she built a mansion on the Hudson and became a neighbor of the Rockefellers.

Chicago native L. Scott Caldwell is the amazing woman who, through sheer determination, becomes the success story of the early 20th century. Centering the work, her consistent and sensitive performance makes the play much more than a simple biography. Cheryl Lynn Bruce, another Chicago actress, is her best friend, Nola. From the days of doing laundry in St. Louis, she remained a loyal supporter. Sarah’s dreams centered on her daughter, Lelia. Determined that she have a better life, her mother thought education seemed the answer, but Lelia finds the social whirl of Harlem more to her liking. Nikki E. Walker is the daughter.

Regina Taylor first premiered her play at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, and her long association with the Goodman gave her the opportunity to mount it here. The technical and artistic staff of the Goodman enhance the production. Jacqueline Firkins’ costumes are gorgeous, and the seemingly simple set by Scott Bradley incorporates details well.

The Goodman is doing an excellent job of building diversity in their audiences. The entire area is finding something to their taste. Beginning Aug. 4, 2006, Latino Theatre Festival begins. Festival Director Henry Godinez has expanded the program for its third season to include a weekend of new works, panel discussions and performances by companies in both the Owen and Albert theaters. Performances are in Spanish, English, some are non-language specific. Tickets can be reserved by phone at (312) 443-3800.

From the July 19-25, 2006, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!