As previously reported in this blog, Relentless received rave reviews in its world premiere production from Chicago’s TimeLine Theatre. “Tyla Abercrumbie’s Relentless is the finest new play to emerge in Chicago since the days before the COVID-19 crisis that delayed this world premiere for so many months,” wrote Chris Jones in the Chicago Tribune, in a review headlined “The Best New Work Here in Years.” “Smart, challenging and deeply moving toward its close, Relentless is fully the equal of many of the serious dramas that populated Broadway this past fall. The piece, written by a Chicago-based artist hitherto best known as an actress, deserves broad international exposure.” Enthusiastic reviews were also published in the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Reader, and other publications. To see a wrap-up of reviews for Relentless, click here.
Developed through TimeLine’s Playwrights Collective, Abercrumbie’s play offers a startling and vibrant look at the secrets we keep to protect the ones we love most, weaving a mother’s past with her daughters’ present in a complicated tale of family, legacy, and progress. To see a video by Abercrumbie discussing her play, click here.
Set in 1919 Philadelphia, the play concerns two Black sisters settling their mother’s estate after her death. Annelle is a happy socialite desperate to return to the safe illusion of a perfect life with her husband in Boston. Janet is a single, professional nurse, determined to change history and propel Black women to a place of prominence and respect. Upon discovering a series of diaries left by their late mother, they find themselves confronted with a woman they never really knew, exposing buried truths from the past that are chillingly, explosively Relentless.
“I don’t know that this story has ever been told from the perspective of these types of characters, at least not in this genre,” says Abercrumbie. “Often the part of American history that is labeled Black History—specifically as it relates to how and when Black Victorians existed and were effective—is largely left out, somehow. Either it’s collectively agreed that it didn’t exist, or IF it did exist, its importance to the American landscape is deemed irrelevant or at best insignificant, and therefore a collective demand that it be forgotten or ‘gotten over’ has been nurtured and accepted. Many of the themes the characters in Relentless deal with remain very relevant today—racism, sexism, feminism, poverty, mental illness, infant mortality, police brutality. Those battles have been relentlessly fought over and over, yet here we are in 2022 still fighting against the same injustices.”