REVIEW: The Radicalization Process by the Hinterlands

Publicity shot of the Radicalization Process by The Hinterlands Ensemble. Photo by Kat Schleicher

The Hinterlands, a Detroit based performance troupe, has a great performance here in Chicago that ends this weekend.  I highly recommend seeing it.  (Currently, all seats are sold out, but  there are floor cushion seats available for three shows, and the Saturday show has reached its capacity.  You should get tickets now!  BUY NOW)



The show, titled The Radicalization Process is being presented by Illinois Humanities, as part of their programming about the 50 year anniversary of Chicago ’68 Democratic National Convention.


Summary of the show

Layering historical accounts of the radical left in the 1960s and 70s with a master class in American method acting, socialist pageantry, and a gleefully obtuse re-production of The Living Theatre’s Antigone, The Radicalization Process stokes the embers of America’s past revolutions to ignite our radical potential. Audiences begin the performance sifting through a basement archive of a forgotten revolutionary, navigating histories true and false, real and imagined, before they make their way into the performance space, a safe-house within a 1970s bungalow. Imagery unfolds both mundane and shocking; a live-score is performed on analog synthesizers and everyday objects; “L’Internationale” is sung; an explosion occurs.

The show is masterfully written and performed by an ensemble of three actors, who switch back and forth effortlessly between various styles of acting to present a show that is riveting and bizarre and kind of avant-garde and at moments really funny.  At least two of the actors studied at Dell’arte, and their physical prowess shows.

The show starts with a pre-show, in which audiences are asked to look through some boxes that were purportedly found underneath the porch of a Detroit house.  The boxes are filled with cuttings and newspaper clippings and weird books from the 1960’s, many of the articles seem as if they might have been clipped by a member of the Black Panthers or the SDS.  Some of the boxes are filled with weirder stuff, including one that is filled just with dirt from underneath the porch.  Another one has leaves in it.  There are also books and magazines to peruse from the time period.  I was particularly interested in a french book La Beaute Est Dans La Rue (Beauty is in the Streets)  It’s a collection of French protest and street posters, that are just plain remarkable, as well as a history of the ’68 Paris uprising.

The Sets and the sound Design of The Radicalization Process are remarkable.

After the pre-show, we are led into the theatrical space, which is a deconstructed view of a safe house, where some radicals are doing their thing, including building a bomb, writing a manifesto, and practicing where they are going to leave the bomb. The show takes on a verite feel for a bit, and then suddenly gets poetic and changes gear. A little while later, when they come back to the scene, there are some meta moments as they are getting coached by one of the actresses, who does a pretty good Stella Adler impression.

The show ping-pongs back and forth between a few different modalities, and it’s sometimes a little hard to follow. But the actors are so good that it doesn’t matter, we can follow them wherever they go.

The set and the sound design are also remarkable, including a live analogue synthesizer which is played, and various sounds repeated, as well as crystal glasses played. The set is well designed, and is used very well.

In short, you should see this play– it’s a great amalgamation of styles and techniques, and executed really really well.

This was my first time at this venue, and I really loved it as well.  I’m looking forward to checking out some of their other offerings.

The Radicalization Process in Chicago

Fri. Aug. 24- Mon. Aug. 27 at 7:30 PM

At Co-Prosperity Sphere (3219 S. Morgan St, Chicago, IL 60608)

$10 tickets (almost sold out!)



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