Review: BOULEVARD OF BOLD DREAMS at TimeLine Theatre Company

Review: BOULEVARD OF BOLD DREAMS at TimeLine Theatre Company

LaDarrion Williams’s world premiere play BOULEVARD OF BOLD DREAMS has a fascinating premise transporting audiences to February 29, 1940 in the hours before Hattie McDaniel became the first Black woman to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. The play finds Hattie at a bar at the Ambassador Hotel, where she encounters bartender Arthur Brooks, who aspires to be a Hollywood film director, and Dottie, a cynical maid. While based on real events, the play’s encounter is fictional, and the interiority of Hattie’s thoughts here is in large part the imagination of the playwright. That said, the vision for the play isn’t meaty enough to sustain its one hour and forty minute run-time. 

Under the direction of Malkia Stampley, BOULEVARD OF BOLD DREAMS starts out strong as it sets up the contrast between Arthur and Dottie’s work at the hotel and Hattie’s role in Hollywood. Charles Andrew Gardner plays Arthur with the right amount of sincerity and wistfulness, never veering over into maudlin. Mildred Marie Langford is a terrific foil as Dottie; she’s biting and hilarious at times, while also portraying the more vulnerable, worn out woman underneath. Gabrielle Lott-Rogers is wonderful as Hattie, conveying both the larger-than-life air of celebrity and the frustration at being a pioneering Black woman in Hollywood. The tension between Hattie’s celebrity and her relegation to maid and “mammy” roles is a central theme in the play; likewise, she’s necessarily fixated on the fact that the Academy refuses to allow her to sit with her white cast members at the ceremony. Lott-Rogers conveys all this tension in her portrayal of Hattie, and she’s a lovely singer as well (as is Langford).

Yet BOULEVARD OF BOLD DREAMS starts to drag about halfway through the play. The conversations between Arthur, Hattie, and Dottie at the bar aren’t quite enough to sustain a full evening of theater. The forces surrounding these three characters—and particularly the racist, sexist structures of Hollywood—are powerful and high stakes. But the intimate encounter that’s the focus of the play itself doesn’t allow for enough dramatic tension. When Williams introduces a major conflict between Hattie and Dottie about three-quarters of the way through the play, it seems forced rather than like a natural progression of events. 

The production design certainly conveys the opulence of Hollywood. Ryan Emens has designed a beautiful, intricate bar and Christine Pascual’s costumes easily transport audiences back to the 1940s. Rasean Davonté’s projection designs are a nice touch, especially as they allow us to see the real-life Hattie McDaniel.

While BOULEVARD OF BOLD DREAMS has a bold, interesting concept, the execution of the play doesn’t measure up to what it offers. The parallels between 1940 Hollywood and present-day Hollywood are clear in the material, but the play’s events themselves aren’t as high stakes as the surrounding cultural forces. 

TimeLine Theatre Company’s BOULEVARD OF BOLD DREAMS runs through March 19, 2023 at 615 West Wellington. Tickets are $42-$57. Visit

Photo Credit: Joel Maisonet 


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