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Review: Rasheeda Speaking (Rivendell Theatre)

By Chicagotheaterbeat @chitheaterbeat

Review: Rasheeda Speaking (Rivendell Theatre)   
Rasheeda Speaking

Written by Joel Drake Johnson
Directed by Sandy Shinner
at Rivendell Theatre, 5779 N. Ridge (map)
thru Feb 15  |  tickets: $30   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
   Read review



World premiere deftly tackles office discrimination from every angle


Review: Rasheeda Speaking (Rivendell Theatre)


Rivendell Theatre Ensemble presents


Rasheeda Speaking

Review by Katy Walsh 

Playwright Joel Drake Johnson’s story prompts a “No, she didn’t” response followed closely by a hand over the mouth. His conversations provoke a definite uncomfortable reaction. Stereotypes are teased out. Some of the dialogue is candy-coated politically correct. And other times, the offensive barb is just hurled. Johnson provides an office battleground for assault; cloaked paired with gasp-worthy. When a doctor wants to fire a black receptionist, he promotes his white office manager to spy. Rasheeda Speaking is discriminating from every angle.

Director Sandy Shinner pulls us firmly into this office dynamic. Set Designer Megan Wilkerson and

Review: Rasheeda Speaking (Rivendell Theatre)
Prop Designer Danielle Case establish an authentic feel in Rivendell’s black box. Center-stage is a reception area housing two office mates. It all looks familiar: coffee pot gossip, disheveled filing system, robotic phone greeting. We’ve been here before, either as a patient or working in a similar environment. This is the kind of bullpen where pots get stirred. Shinner gives her fantastic ensemble mega spoons – and a big ole ladle to Ora Jones (Jaclyn).

Eric Slater (Doctor) introduces prejudice with white man hedging. The polished Slater subtly eggs the impressionable Tara Mallen (Ileen) into a frenzy. The nervous Mallen lets her biased imagination fill the room. The versatile Jones adds to Mallen’s agitation. Once clued into Mallen’s clandestine mission, Jones revs up the mischief. At one point, Jones answers the phone with a fake greeting and winks conspiratorially at Mallen. Watching Jones push Mallen’s button is hysterical and disturbing. Shinner keeps the manipulation flowing. As Johnson’s characters unfold and implode, we are left in search of a champion of justice. Who is the least prejudice out of this crew? Johnson layers the experiential complexities on his characters. The prejudice is lying all over this office. And sometimes, it is invited in. Lorraine Freund (Rose) delivers her cruelty wrapped in sweet old lady obtuseness.

Rasheeda Speaking is a powerful promotion for a zero tolerance policy in the workplace. It picks apart prejudice indiscriminately.


Rating: ★★★½



Rasheeda Speaing continues through February 15th at Rivendell Theatre, 5779 N. Ridge (map), with performances Thursdays and Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays 4pm and 8pm.  Tickets are $30, and are available by phone (773.334.7728) or online through (check for half-price tickets at More information at  (Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission)

Review: Rasheeda Speaking (Rivendell Theatre)

Photos by Joe Mazza / Brave Lux 




Tara Mallen (Ileen), Ora Jones (Jaclyn), Eric Slater (Dr. Williams), Lorraine Freund (Rose)

behind the scenes

Sandy Shinner (director), Megan Wilkerson (set design), Diane Fairchild (light design), Victoria Delorio (sound design, original music), Samantha C. Jones (costume design), Danielle Case (props design), Kristina Valada-Viars (stage manager), Hannah Baker Bramsen (assistant stage manager), Rigel Nunez (tech director), Ebony Joy (assistant director), Stephanie Hurovitz (production stage manager), Lorenzo Blackett (production manager), Lucy Schuh (production assistant), Joe Mazza/Brave Lux (photos)

Review: Rasheeda Speaking (Rivendell Theatre)


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