Friday, August 24, 2012

Hookah in the house..."True Blood" star Nelsan Ellis to direct local production

Nelsan Ellis (Lafayette, "True Blood")
Say what you will about this shark-jumping season of "True Blood," but in my humble opinion one of the only reasons I have continued to tune in is for Nelsan Ellis' layered performance of medium and short order cook Lafayette. Keeping Lafayette alive (spoiler: he dies in the first book) was one of the best decisions show-runner Alan Ball ever did.

Ellis is now bringing his talent back to the Windy City. He will be directing the Chicago premiere of  "HooDoo Love" by Olivier Award-winning playwright Katori Hall. It's also the inaugural Chicago production for The Collective Theatre, for which Ellis is a co-founder --along with Francois Battiste, Veronda Carey, Le’Mil Eiland,  Metra Gilliard and Jasond Jones.

Ellis, in his non-Lafayette garb.

Set in the 1930s, the show follows a young woman named Toulou who escapes from the Mississippi cotton fields to pursue her dream of singing the blues in Memphis. After she meets a rambling blues man, her dreams are realized in a way she never could have imagined. 

"HooDoo Love" plays September 22 – October 21, 2012 at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Avenue in Chicago.  The production features Christophé Abiel, Toni Lynice Fountain, Mark Smith and Lynn Wactor.  Tickets, $32 ($20 students; $27 previews) are currently available online at or by calling the Athenaeum Theatre Box Office at (773) 935-6875. 

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