Caroline, or Change
Court Theatre, Chicago
“A Category 5 hurricane is sweeping across the stage of the Court Theatre at the moment, and it bears the name Caroline, or Change,” said Hedy Weiss in the Chicago Sun-Times. Playwright Tony Kushner and composer Jeanine Tesori’s musical about an African-American maid in the early 1960s is truly “breathtaking.” E. Faye Butler delivers a “bare-nerved, fiercely interior performance” as Caroline, who ekes out her living doing the chores in the Louisiana home of a transplanted Jewish family. Caroline briefly ran on Broadway in 2003. But “something wholly transformative” has taken place under the masterful direction of Charles Newell, as Butler reveals the show’s beating heart.
Maybe the show’s initial run just took place at “the wrong time and place,” said Chris Jones in the Chicago Tribune. Whatever the case, Caroline is smashing box office records in Chicago: The Court Theatre has been selling five times as many tickets as usual. Butler’s clarion voice is astonishing, and Kate Fry dazzles as the mistress of the house—a new wife from New York in an unfamiliar place and an uncomfortable situation: “Her maid is angry, her husband is withdrawn, and Noah, the 8-year-old kid of the household, doesn’t love her.” As Noah, the young Malcolm Durning develops a complicated rapport with Butler. Much of Caroline turns on the interactions between “domestic helpers and the children for whom they work,” and these two make an unforgettable pair.
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