East Texas Hot Links was performed at Writers Theatre, a new beautiful, intimate, theater in the Chicago suburb of Glencoe, IL.
Great recorded blues classics are played before the show begins, as patrons walk into the theater. I especially liked the blues, “The Sky Is Crying “ by Elmore James. East Texas Hot Links, is based on Houston playwright and actor, Eugene Lee’s East Texas upbringing and reflects Southern Black life in that area of the U.S. during the 1950’s.
Segregation was the rule and the Klan was very active.”Hot Links” refers in the play how “we are all liked in a food chain”, a hierarchy,from powerful to powerless in the social class system.
Eight characters in all, inhabit the play;one woman and seven men share the setting of the “Top Of The Hill Café.”, in East Texas.The characters are seen doing their various tasks Charlesette (café proprietor), XL (card player, hustler) Adolph(blind philosopher) Delmus (up and coming job seeker) Roy (womanizer) Boochie (gambler and spiritualist) Buckshot (sharecropper) and Columbus (small businessman). Each character has their own take on racism in their town and the prospect of getting work in spite of it.
The acting was great. Although, the play gets off to a slow start with much dialogue and little action. It picked up steam in the middle and end, as the characters become more combative with each other and the outside world of racism, with the threat of the Klan always nearby .Characters physically and verbally battle each other in this funny, sad, thought-provoking observations of their situations. Black Southern culture is revealed through food specialties served the café (chitterlings and pigs feet) and booze flows constantly, as characters drown their sorrows in drink throughout the play.
The female character is a strong, independent woman who refuses advances of Roy and just cares to run the café. The male characters are colorful, but appear trapped in a social order they have little control over. Life in an unjust social system is described in the play as “warfare” and :we’re all hunted by someone for something”….
Eugene Lee brilliantly describes American society during the fifties South in a rather subtle way until near the end whereby the characters are attacked by the Klan in a vicious assault(though never seen )
Recorded blues music again is heard at the end of the play as the patrons exit the theater.
East Texas Hot Links is playing Tues through Sunday through the middle of January 2017. Go see it!