"Over My Dead Body" dramatizes a controversy from Chicago's recent past: in 2001, former Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley proposed the reconfiguration of the runways at O'Hare Airport, a move that required the relocation of the 150-year-old St. Johannes Cemetery. Generations of the areaís longstanding denizens had their ancestors buried there - family members, war heroes, community leaders. Impassioned, organized resistance from the church and a host of locals proved fruitless. Despite what appeared to be unassailable legal precedent backing the church, the cemetery is now a construction site.
Itís a difficult story to tell. Many of the people in the story are not happy at all, and their voices are far from unified as to why. Their firsthand narratives speak from many different perspectives. Some are evasive; others, whether from grief or confusion, outright difficult to understand. Furthermore, the story is not over. Many people, and many issues surrounding this event, are in limbo - unresolved.
Graciously, the Waltzing Mechanics allow the audience to decide how they should feel about this story. They insert their personal emotional responses to the work in subtle, artistic ways; through stagecraft.
The show is choreographed elegantly by director Thomas Murray; characters come and go smoothly and seamlessly, and the story progresses. The ensemble does an absolutely stunning job portraying the myriad of characters involved. Anchored by a rock-solid performance from Bryan Campbell as St. Johannesí chief advocate, the 10-person ensemble speaks for over 23 people (both living and dead) with a subtlety and deftness that had me hanging on every word.
I applaud the Waltzing Mechanics for using their talents and craft to tell community stories. I appreciated hearing a story about todayís Chicago - the city whose shadow I dwell under. I found it educational. Itís good to know what happens when City Hall wants something to happen. Who knows? The next neighborhood OíHare expands to might be mine.