Theater Review: “Blacktop Sky”

Ida, at 18, just wants out of the suffocating Chicago housing project in which she shares a place with her disabled mother. Surrounded by 7-story cookie-cutter designed apartments, she can hardly see the sun in the tiny central courtyard where the homeless Klass has taken up residence on the lone bench, surrounded by boxes and bags of his stuff.

Tina Machele Brown as Ida is alternately optimistic, annoyed and depressed by her current situation.

But she is both hopeful for herself and empathetic about those worse off, like Klass (though she fails to understand why he is reluctant to return her keys, which is he wearing around his wrist).

The Ira Aldridge Repertory Players offer one more performance of Christina Anderson’s “Blacktop Sky” this Saturday, June 24, at the Educational Cultural Complex.

It’s a searing exploration of poverty, homelessness and the social disquietude that leads to confrontations with police that should not happen.

Ida opens the show with a monologue about the most recent cops-versus-the people incident in which her friend Antonio was tasered and is still in the hospital.

He was just “minding his own business,” she tells us.

Klass has mental issues beyond homelessness: he never removes his heavy parka, though it’s the middle of summer, and alternates moments of poetic and philosophical awareness with delusional episodes.

Wrekless Watson manages to meld both the humanity and the scary aspects of the damaged Klass so that we care about him.

Kendrick Dial plays Ida’s older boyfriend Wynn, an auto mechanic, who says he cares for her but mostly seems to care about controlling her.

There will be change and confrontation, craziness and philosophy before this one-act piece with its 36 very short scenes is over.

Here’s my favorite Klassism: “There is a wind blowing through you, a gust of truth. It won’t let you keep your troubles quiet.”

Calvin Manson has been artistic director of the Ira Aldridge Repertory Players for some 30 years. Despite the unsettling effect of those quick-cut scenes, “Blacktop Sky” is the best thing I’ve seen from IARP. I advise you to see it.

The details

“Blacktop Sky” plays once more – Saturday, June 24, 2017– at the Educational Cultural Complex, 4343 Ocean View Boulevard.

Tickets: (619) 283-4574 or

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