OCTAGON by Kristiana Rae Colón now playing at Jackalope Theatre
TIME OUT SAYS
5 out of 5 stars
BY: ALEX HUNTSBERGER
When these seven slam poets battle it out, Chicago audiences are the real winners.For some time now, the vaunted “we say it to their faces” Chicago style of theatre has really been shorthand for “middle-aged white people yelling at each other.” And while that might have seemed pretty radical 30 years ago, in 2016 the “Chicago style” either has to evolve, or it has to die.
Here’s the good news: That evolution is well under way. If you want proof, just head up to the Broadway Armory and sit your ass down for Kristiana Rae Colón’s Octagon, in its scorching U.S. premiere from director-to-watch Tara Branham. Though Colón is a Chicagoan, her play had its premiere in London in 2015. But Octagon is Chicago style for a new generation: one that’s younger, more diverse, and woke as hell.
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3½ out of 4 Stars for Octagon from the Chicago Tribune, Kerry Reid
"Made of spit and spirit, cunning and chaos, deliverance and destruction, Kristiana Rae Colon's "Octagon" takes apart the world of slam poetry with bravado and brio. Though at times self-indulgent, self-conscious and insufficiently clear in its exploration of sexual politics — well, that too feels honest to the characters onstage. They're learning how to read between the lines of their relationships even as they're shouting what they insist is their truth into a microphone.
Colon, a Chicago-based writer and organizer, premiered this play with London's Arcola Theatre in September 2015. But it's fitting that it should land home here in Chicago, just a mile and a half up the road from the Green Mill, where Marc Smith gets credit for inventing the "poetry slam." Jackalope Theatre's sweaty, exuberant and at times frustrating production, directed by Tara Branham, functions in part as a guide to the roots of the slam."
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A Review of Octagon at Jackalope Theatre, Kevin Greene, Newcity Stage
Describing the sensorial impact of Kristiana Rae Colón’s work is like trying to express the experience of being struck by lightning. You can break it down to its elements, reassemble it for purposes of diagrams and analysis but good luck getting that fire into a jar.
Her third premiere in as many months (following “good friday” at Oracle and a staged reading of “Florissant & Canfield” at the Goodman New Stages Festival), “Octagon” is the most personal and affecting work of them all. It deepens the playwright’s thematic concerns of media as a conduit for social change, the limitations of protest and the petty narcissism of artists, while exacting truth brutally and brutality truthfully.
As a theater artist, Colón is unmatched in a city that has no shortage of local talent. A master of simultaneous dialogue, her writing is disruptive both socially and dramatically. It shakes audiences from the comfort of conventions with furious, ugly beauty, the theatrical equivalent of watching Pollock paint. Like “Florissant,” “Octagon” blurs the lines between documentary realism and subjective nightmare. It becomes impossible to distinguish between hallucinations and machinations, the dreamers and schemers looking and sounding so alike that they themselves don’t seem to know which they are.
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