There’s something amazing going on right now at the Broadway Armory in Chicago–if you only see one piece of live theater this year, The Black Watch should be it. It is nothing less than phenomenal.
Back by popular demand, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre hosts the multi-award-winning National Theatre of Scotland’s production, stunningly (and appropriately) presented in the historic armory on Broadway. The play spins stories large (the history of this legendary Scottish regiment) and small (focusing on the experiences of veterans of the Iraq War.)
The Black Watch is difficult to describe, a mixture of comedy and drama, I’d even go so far to say it’s part musical and ballet as well–there’s a heavy dose of song and choreographed battle sequences that have the athleticism and grace of hypnotic ballet. The Black Watch is an all-consuming experience: loud, physical, intense, funny, and thought-provoking, an immersion in the sounds of war and folk songs of the regiment. It’s nearly worth the price of admission just for the outstanding sound design. (Did I mention it’s loud?) The set is minimal (a stage made to travel with the company around the world) created mostly out of steel girders, what looks like a shipping container, an oil cloth curtain, atmosphere created with light, and layers of multimedia. The acting is top-notch, there’s not a week link in the bunch. And the things they do with a pool table are beyond creative. (This play has one of the most effective character entrances I think I’ve ever seen.)
The nearly two-hour-performance is run without an intermission which is a good thing–once this high-octane train gets going, you don’t want anything disrupting the energy until the play comes to its heart-thumping conclusion. I attended the show with a friend who saw it the first time The Black Watch came to town and I could easily see why she was intent on seeing it again. I would have gladly signed up for another tour the following night. And the night after that. It’s that good.