I have never studied or trained to be a theatre (or theater) critic. And yet, I am about to review a play I went to see today at the UIC Theater. I saw In the Blood because I love going to the UIC Theatre to see plays produced by our university. Well, I’m on campus anyway, so it’s very convenient. And not many people I know like going to plays anyway. And the people I know who like plays never seem to be available at the same time as me. So, I always see the plays at the UIC Theatre alone. Well, not actually alone. I mean, there is an audience that includes other people besides me. Occasionally, I meet students I know and we chat a while. But otherwise, I go alone.
Well, In the Blood is loosely based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter that I had to read in high school but didn’t because I too busy rebelling as an adolescent. But I did read it years later, on my own and again in college as part of my English major. For some reason, I still remember the story well. The play I saw today merely took the principal elements of The Scarlet Letter and juxtaposed them in our era. The updated Hester Prynne becomes an African-American single mother on welfare. And she also has a child out of wedlock. Five times. With five different fathers. Much to her disgrace! The father of her fifth child is an African-American minister who is afraid the scandal would ruin his success with his flock who have just constructed a new church. Shades of Pastor Arthur Dimmesdale indeed!
I’m not really sure whether or not I liked the play. I spent most of the play recalling The Scarlet Letter in order to make a connection with In the Blood. There were enough allusions to Hawthorne to keep me interested. And there were also enough original ideas and controversial topics to keep the play engaging. I did enjoy the set that suggested the ambience of the residence of the homeless who lived under a bridge. The set was vaguely reminiscent of the homeless when they lived on lower Wacker Drive years ago. But the play could take place in just about any large American city.