Wednesday May 24th 2017

Route 66 now on Route 21 (also known as Milwaukee Avenue)

Route 66 Theatre Company is well planted in their now home on Milwaukee Avenue, The Den Theatre located at 1333 N. Milwaukee Avenue (just north of Ashland/Division). For those of you who are not full aware of this company, they are a sharp talented troupe that brings many new shows to its stage. At this time, they only take on two to three projects per year, but do have a solid program of Monthly readings, featuring some of Chicago’s finest actors and directors. If you have never attended one, this company’s offerings are a great place to start. If you visit, I am sure you can get your name on their list.

Tonight, I was able to watch and listen to a new play , “23.5 Hours” written by Carey Crim and directed by Artistic Director/Founder Stef Tovar. FYI- during a staged reading, the actors do have scripts ( I have yet to see many of them use it) and there is no set or props. What we get is the drama or comedy of the story and the actors touch to make the written page come to life. It is amazing, but it works.

“23.5 Hours” is a story about a family, Tom Hodges (James Vincent Meredith) a teacher and theater director, his wife, Leigh ( a powerful Amy J. Carle ), a nurse and their son, Nicholas (newcomer Richard Hatcher, who is up to the task) in a small town. We meet them and their neighbors/best friends Bruce (deftly handled by Raymond Fox) and Jayne( Anne Fogarty).. The story does cover a 4 year period. During this story, it turns out that Tom is accused of having a relationship with one of his students. Despite his protests, he is found guilty, spends several years in prison and of course, cannot go back to teaching, or having any contact with high school age children.

Our family changes as their lives are altered by this event and what we watch for the majority of the play is the deterioration of this family and the way that friends can change their feelings and attitudes. When trust issues arise, it is difficult for the family members to stay together and for their good friends to feel that they can remain as such. This play has some comical touches in the beginning, but as the plot deepens and we see the effects that this accusation and the resulting prison term bring on the Hodges family, we feel the sadness and the hopelessness that hits them.

At one of these “readings” they ask the audience members to vote- would they want to see this as a production, a full-scale production during an upcoming season. I did not stay for the “talk-back” and discussion, but my vote is- YES! I would love to see this production done, and if Route 66 can get all of these cast members to repeat their roles, I would be a “Happy Camper”.

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