Reviews

Breath, Boom – Eclipse Theatre Company

By Kia Corthron

“…Director Stewart, in her Eclipse debut, has a strong eye for character detail, not just with Prix, but the women who make up her world, from her mother to her lifelong friends to her cellmates. Everyone is coming from somewhere – violence isn’t manifested in a vacuum. Both staging and fight choreography are thoughtful and true…”

-Lauren Whalen, Chicago Theater Beat

“…Breath, Boom’s overriding strength is the distinct ring of its truth.  Watching Prix go from an angry “gangsta” to a 28-year-old has been with enough inner integrity to regret made you wonder just how many thousands of her are out there.  Children whose aspirational ceilings at birth is no higher than mere survival and would remain only that. Eleanor Kahn’s set design was spare and on point.   The cast was marvelous doing double duty as adroit stage hands between scenes. Director Mignon McPherson Stewart wrung every ounce of goodness from this essential story of people the larger world pretend are invisible…”

-Gladys Anson, City Pleasures

“…director Mignon McPherson Stewart and her steel-nerved ensemble never falter in their dedication to their material, its power rendered even more intense by the intimate proximity of the Athenaeum’s Studio Three. Acclimating to the scale of normality prevalent in Corthron’s dramatic universe is not easy, but this Eclipse Theatre Company production offers as thorough an appreciation for the fleeting moments of light to be found in a world of darkness as audiences bereft of first-hand experience could ask.”

-Mary Shen Barnidge, Windy City Times

Florence/Wine in the Wilderness – eta Creative Arts Foundation

By Alice Childress

“It would have been easy for this production to engage in hindsight mockery, endowing our white matron with a cornpone accent, or caricaturing the urban hipsters and their now-outdated ideas. Director Mignon McPherson Stewart rejects these stereotypes, however, instead adhering to the respective zeitgeists of the eras under scrutiny.”

Mary Shen Barnidge, Windy City Times

Stage Black – MPAACT

By Lydia R. Diamond

“Diamond’s play, cunningly staged by Mignon McPherson Nance, delivers plenty of beefy laughs at the expense of both the self-appointed guardians of black cultural heritage and well-meaning white liberal audiences who expect tales of sexual abuse, self-sacrificing women, angry young men and wise-if-randy grandfathers in plays about black family life.”

– Kerry Reid, Chicago Tribune

“Diamond’s razor-sharp skewering of what audiences expect from black playwrights—historical pieces about slavery or family comedies with “a big momma on the couch”–is bitterly funny and saves the piece from the tedious self-indulgence that often befalls writing about writing. Mignon McPherson Nance’s staging for MPAACT is pitch-perfect, with a fluid style somewhere between satire, realism, and Pirandello.”

-Zac Thompson, Chicago Reader

Trouble the Water

Trouble the Water – MPAACT

By Shepsu Aakhu

“ Director Mignon McPherson Nance has a nice understated way with the magical realism of the script–ghostly ancestors from slave ships in Africa act as guardian angels, and it is a subtle rather than overtly cloying device. This is not a flashy show–and some of its artier moments feel forced–but it is honest and well-acted. You can’t ask for more.”

-Nina Metz, New City 

“Aakhu and director Mignon McPherson Nance use Trouble the Water to look for a sense of community and forgiveness while ruminating on African Americans’ tenuous relationship with water… As it stands, Trouble the Water is a great experimental theater piece that blends song, drama and dance together to culturally explore a devastated community and a fear that has burdened African Americans for centuries..

Scott C. Morgan, Windy City Times

“Author Shepsu Aakhu’s play is an ambitious and even beautiful meditation on life, death, separation and family. The metaphor of water ripples as a connective through the rituals, myths and witness, which the MPAACT theatre company deploys with conviction and style. The play’s director, Mignon McPherson Nance, accomplishes a rhythm of variation and surprise which is both earthy and surreal.”

-Mike Cook, North Lawndale Community News

Relevant Hearsay – MPAACT

Adapted by Mignon McPherson Nance & Shepsu Aakhu from the stories of Shirley Carney

“Skillfully adapted by Mignon McPherson Nance and Shepsu Aakhu and under Nance’s vibrant direction, Shirley Camey’s distinctive short stories gracefully make the often difficult translation from page to stage. This production stands out not just because of Carney’s colorfully eloquent words, but for the myriad ways that they are delivered. Like the best African storytelling, Relevant Hearsay transcends the passive interaction of listener and teller. This production stirs up spirit, memory and recognition, and makes the audience a part of the process.”

-Rosalind Cummings-Yeates, N’DIGO

“Directed by Mignon Nance, an ensemble of four moves in and out of various characters and stories with the ease of water rushing through fingers. The cast is backed by a guitar/harmonica/percussion ensemble that evokes the frantic energy of a revival meeting, the solitary ache of a broken heart and the hypnotic rhythm of an outbound train with equal power.”

-Catey Sullivan, Windy City Times

Sisters of Belzoni – eta Creative Arts Foundation

By Creola Thomas

“Under the direction of Mignon McPherson Nance, the seven actors breathe more life into the play than it generally merits and create a fine ensemble feeling.”

-Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times

“Director Mignon McPherson Nance gives the work a depth that distinguishes it from the Afro-vaudevillian comedic fare that largely accounts for eta’s popularity. Indeed, she seems to have carved a niche for herself as a director of reunion dramas featuring sisters of color in dysfunctional families: McPherson recently staged MPAACT’s Sost, about a gathering of three Ethiopian sisters in Evanston.”

-Rebecca L. Ford, Chicago Reader

“Under Mignon McPherson Nance’s direction, however, the company assembled for this eta production argue the reasons for each character’s individual choices, imposing intelligence and compassion on archetypes well-documented in historical fact, but nowadays easily reduced to comic-book flatness.”

-Mary Shen Barnidge, Windy City Times

Kiwi Black – MPAACT

By Shepu Aakhu

“Director Mignon McPherson Nance amplifies the text through visual and musical dynamics. She uses the supporting ensemble to portray a varied Black community, chiefly seen on a subway platform (one of the play’s principal settings), with the creative and often-amusing assistance of costumer Kanika Sago. Nance also punctuates the rhythmic text with recorded and live blues riffs that highlight the musical nature of Aakhu’s words.

-Jonathan Abarbanel, Windy City Times

As directed by Mignon McPherson Nance, the two show an amazing sympathy that catapults Kiwi Black out of the realm of simple slice-of-life drama. Over the play’s two electrifying hours, these characters abandon and rediscover each other constantly, alternately railing against and succumbing to the massive debt of blood relationship.

-Nick Green, Chicago Reader

Journal of Ordinary Thought – Chicago Theatre Company

Adapted by Mignon McPherson, David Barr, Luther Goins & Douglas Alan-Mann from writings published by Neighborhood Writing Alliance

“Most of the work is based on the personal histories and daily experiences of the participants. But at the Chicago Theatre Company it has gone through a marvelous sea- change thanks to the stirring performances of a winning ensemble of seven actors, to the impeccable, richly musical direction of Mignon McPherson and to the expertly shaped adaptation by McPherson, Luther Goins, David Barr and Douglas Alan-Mann.”

-Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times