Review “Boulevard of Bold Dreams” (Timeline Theatre): The Cast is a Winning Trifecta!

Thursday, February 16, 2023 Permalink 0

Timeline Theatre presents the World Premiere of BOULEVARD OF BOLD DREAMS.

It’s 1940. For the first time in Hollywood history, the Academy Awards have nominated a black woman for an Oscar. Hattie McDaniels is to be honored for her portrayal of Mamie in “Gone With The Wind.” The evening should be a glamorous celebration of Miss McDaniels’ achievements as an actress. It’s not! Instead of treating her like a star, the Ambassador Hotel have relaxed their ‘white guests only’ policy to seat Hattie in the back of the banquet hall and segregated from her cast mates. In addition, the black community is criticizing her for taking a role in a film distorting the true nature of slavery. Even before the winner is announced, McDaniels feels defeated!

Playwright LaDarrion Williams re-imagines that infamous Oscar night. Williams has Hattie (played by Gabrielle Lott-Rogers) duck into the hotel’s cocktail lounge to avoid the press and contemplate not attending the event. Her solitude is interrupted as she befriends Arthur (played by Charles Andrew Gardener) and Dottie (played by Mildred Marie Langford). Arthur is a bartender who dreams of making movies. Dottie is a maid looking for an escape from her past. The unlikely trio clash and bond over their lived experiences and their lofty aspirations   

This cast is a winning trifecta! Under Malkia Stampley’s direction, exchanges are  authentic. Passions erupt spontaneously. Conversations feels organic. Sharing pivots to sparring as they drink up the  booze and throw out the accusations. A fierce Langford spirals out of control with lethal rants. Her snarky comments escalate into a fiery takedown. In the aftermath of her own attacks, Langford crumples in an endearing puddle of remorse. An energetic Gardener is pouring the drinks, plotting camera angles and answering the phone anticipating his big break is about to happen. He is delightful as Hattie’s star-struck fan and tenderhearted as Dottie’s best friend. 

A radiant Lott-Rogers glides onto the stage like an Academy Award winner. She assures Gardener that she ‘doesn’t want to be a bother’ with all the humble pride of a new celebrity. Her elegant demeanor contrasts nicely with Langford’s messy implosions. And through Williams’ clever reinvention, Lott-Rogers gets to accept the award with  heart-felt and personal gratitude instead of the contrived speech assigned to her by studio execs. (Hattie via Willams gets the last word!)

BOULEVARD OF BOLD DREAMS is a behind-the-curtain look at the Golden Age of Hollywood. Racism permeated the picture show industry and perpetuated stereotypes of black people. The story is engaging as the seedy side of the prestigious award show night is revealed. The performances are outstanding! Langford, Gardener and Lott-Rogers deliver hope and hopelessness with true grit. Although the show is very enjoyable, the scene transitions could have been smoother and quicker. In addition, a few songs (lyrics by Williams, music by Stampley) were interspersed throughout the show.  Although one song to showcase Lanford and Lott-Rogers’ bond might work, the back and forth to the piano took away from the overall uncontrived nature of the trio’s encounter. The show is at its best in the well-paced, free flowing dialogue delivered with perfection by the three stars of the BOULEVARD!                           

Running Time: One hour and forty minutes with no intermission

At Timeline Theatre, 615 W. Wellington 

Written by LaDarrion Williams

Directed by Malkia Stampley

Performances are:

Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30pm

Fridays at 8pm 

Saturdays at 4pm and 8pm 

Sundays at 2pm

Thru March 19th  

For more information or tickets

Photos by Joel Maisonet

For more Chicago theatre information and reviews, please visit Theatre in Chicago

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