'Ain't No Crying the Blues (In the Memory of Howlin' Wolf)' ★★★

"I need some ladies up here," declared Howlin' Wolf, as channeled through Rick Stone, at Black Ensemble Theatre on Sunday. Such moments of audience participation are not unusual at Black Ensemble, a theater long focused on the provision of a darn good time. And this particular electric bluesman, also known as Chester Arthur Burnett, certainly appealed to the ladies — even if he was a one-woman man, and a heck of a savvy financial planner, himself.

Still, such moments in the theater usually require the performer, or a flunky, to head out into the house and cajole and persuade. Not here. No sir. Stone had barely combined "need" and "ladies" when a plethora of women rushed up to the stage en masse, all for a chance to dance with the man.

That's testament both to the Wolf's appeal (he howled at the night sky long before vampire shows got big) and to Stone's charm. Stone, whom I last saw play this role in 2003, does not quite do what he did back then physically (who could?), but he more than compensates with the increased gravitas of age. If you could imagine a powder-blue suit, tailored for an elongated gentleman, hung on a coat hanger and then animated and made to dance, you have a sense of Stone's thing.

His upper-body stays still. His lower regions jive. But underneath all of that, Stone has a sweet, soft tenor that provides a crucial counterpoint to the howls and that were, overall, more important to that signature Howlin' Wolf sound.

Although Stone is back — no way to do this one without him — the show itself is quite different from that in 2003. Rueben Echoles now directs the piece, as written by Jackie Taylor, and he's added video and a lot more fluidity to the enterprise. It's tighter, too. The shtick here is that this is a memory play (its no "Glass Menagerie," but it works) and that Howlin' Wolf's famous rival at Chess Records, Muddy Waters (the lively Dwight Neal), keeps intruding into the yarn. That allows for lots of good-natured one-upmanship, and a recreation of the famous European tour of these stars allows for lots of concert-style presentations, all of which are a blast.

Technically, the show is called "Ain't No Crying the Blues (In the Memory of Howlin' Wolf)", but what you really are buying is the Howlin' Wolf Show. And the Rick Stone show. Ask for either, and I bet they'll sell you a ticket.

cjones5@tribune.com

Twitter@ChrisJonesTrib

When: Through Aug. 11

Where: Black Ensemble Theatre, 4450 N. Clark St.

Running time: 2 hours

Tickets: $55-$65 at 773-769-4451 or blackensemble.org

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Grateful Dead drummer dishes dirt, drug dependency in new book

    Grateful Dead drummer dishes dirt, drug dependency in new book

    As a founding member of the Grateful Dead, Bill Kreutzmann watched the world change from behind his drum kit, shoveling coal in the wildly tribal rhythm section as the Dead went from San Francisco underground curio to ground-breaking indie outfit, then progenitor of the improvisation-based rock...

  • Book comes out ahead of Grateful Dead farewell concerts in Chicago this weekend

    Book comes out ahead of Grateful Dead farewell concerts in Chicago this weekend

    The three clichés that color every good rock star story is “sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll." For the Grateful Dead, the trailblazing rock band known for its improvisational style, revelatory live shows and dedicated fanbase, there was that and so much more.

  • 10 best movies of 2015 so far

    10 best movies of 2015 so far

    The year’s half-over! How did that happen? No idea. With six months of a good year of movies in the books, let’s see how the Top 10 list is looking, with a quote from each respective review. Note: There are a few I’ve seen that I really like that haven’t yet opened in Chicago, and those aren’t...

  • If you make less than $50,440, proposal could increase overtime pay

    If you make less than $50,440, proposal could increase overtime pay

    Nearly 5 million more Americans would qualify for overtime pay under new rules proposed Tuesday by the Obama administration, a long-anticipated move expected to affect a broad swath of salaried employees from store managers to social workers to restaurant shift supervisors.

  • Chicago's minimum wage increase attracting workers to city

    Chicago's minimum wage increase attracting workers to city

    Unlike previous summers, UniStaff is experiencing a spike in job applicants at its Little Village location, a trend the branch manager says is tied to the city's minimum wage increase to $10 per hour beginning Wednesday.

  • 'The Bachelorette' episode 7 recap: How many meltdowns can Shawn have in one week?

    'The Bachelorette' episode 7 recap: How many meltdowns can Shawn have in one week?

    Welcome to RedEye’s coverage of “The Bachelorette,” arguably the most misogynistic show on television! The format is pretty simple: Five women of RedEye each drafted five of the 25 competing men. Everyone gets one point for every man who gets through each week. If you ever want your daughter to...

Comments
Loading