© 2024 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Hellcab: A Rough Ride Into The Psyche Of Chicago

Siggi Ragnar
Attic Rep
Scenes from Hellcab

It’s the final three days for a stage production at Trinity University that follows the single day of a cab driver in Chicago as he picks up fares in the racially tense and sometimes seedy areas of the Windy City.

While the play calls for 36 characters, Attic Rep took on the challenge of using only seven actors.

The play, "Hellcab," takes place on the day before Christmas in Chicago. The weather is brutally cold, and a cab driver is reporting in at 6:30 a.m. for what will be a 14-hour shift.

He takes his lighter to melt ice off his keys and starts the cab. In a series of vignettes, the driver picks up three dozen people, played by only six actors. His first fare is a self-righteous religious couple, overly friendly and very preachy.

Later he picks-up a pregnant couple, drug addicts, and as the day progresses, the riders go from rude, offensive, to downright weird. The scenes range from comedic, to dangerous, and even depressing.

Will Kern wrote the play when he was living and working as a cabbie in Chicago.

Director Stacey Connelly said  the multitude of characters is a microcosm of urban life and that Kern was trying to display loneliness and how hard it is for people to connect with each other.

"The cab driver himself represents that human impulse that we all have to empathize and to connect and to reach out to others," Connally said.

*WARNING: This video contains explicit language.

The play deals with racism, stereotypes, and bigotry and contains strong language.  E.J. Roberts plays the Cab Driver. He said much of the racial tension is unexpected.

"Having that exposure to it when you’ve been raised in a culture where you don’t see it that often is pretty surprising," Roberts said. "In a bigger city like Chicago it happens a lot more often than you would think."

Nicco Bonacci is one of the six actors each playing six characters. He said it’s a challenge to bring each one to life.

"It can be draining because you enter the play with five different mentalities and you have to switch within minutes of each other," Bonacci said. "It gets pretty complicated, it’s kind hectic backstage with a lot of costume changes but you get five different characters to show what you can do as an actor."

Each character delivers a message.

"You get some real dark characters and some people who are just jerks, and it contrasts well against the setting of the play because it shows even at a happy time [like Christmas], there are people out there who are pretty mean or pretty crazy," Bonacci continued. "E.J. plays the main character really, well showing that not all hope is lost and that there are some people out there with strong moral compasses who always try to be as nice as they can."

"Hellcab" will run at the Attic Rep at Trinity University through this Sunday. 

Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules