Thursday November 23rd 2017

“A Twist of Water” revisited

A Twist of Water- photos by Brandon Dahlquist★★★★★ One of the newer theater companies in Chicago, Route 66 Theatre Company produces theater that explores risk and embraces the American spirit of exploration. While they are new to our scene, many of the members are “old hands” in being both onstage and backstage and their latest production, “A Twist of Water” is a very strong look at some of what makes America, America and even more so, Chicago, Chicago! Written by Caitlin Montanye Parrish, “Water” is a story that deals with the history of Chicago and that of a non-traditional family and some of the parts of the whole that run parallel.

Noah ( a solid performance by the always reliable Stef Tovar) is a teacher and a father. He is Gay and he and his “husband” Richard, adopted an African American daughter. Together, they raised her as a family and like many families, their daughter Jira ( a beautiful performance by Falashay Pearson) was closer to her “father” who she had much less quality time with. As a doctor, his hours were harder to come by, while Noah was always there. A year before, Richard was killed in an auto accident and like the destruction of the city of Chicago by the great fire, Noah is attempting to rebuild their lives. Since they were not a “couple” per the law and hospital rules, Noah was not allowed to see Richard in his last moments, but sent Jira back to him. Under today’s laws, this would not have been a problem, but Jira has yet to forgive Noah for not being with her as she watched Richard die.

It is now a year later and Noah is attempting to rebuild his life ( as did the survivors of the Chicago fire) and go on. Jira has decided that she needs to have a family and perhaps it is time for her to find her birth mother and have a family. Noah fears that what might happen from her doing so may destroy his family. Noah, during this time has become close to another teacher, Liam ( deftly handled by Alex Hugh Brown) a Gay English teacher who is all about Carl Sandburg and his Chicago as well. Little by little, these two men become close and Liam helps Noah deal with the problems of raising a teen-age daughter. At one point, he tells Jira that she is not being fair to Noah and doesn’t understand how he truly feels about her. Noah does help her to find her birth mother ( played with just the right touch by Lili-Anne Brown) who is happy to see her daughter but has a whole new life and family and is not in a position to go back in time. Like the city that burned to the ground and rebuilt, she has, after giving up a child born out of wedlock, rrebuilt her burned out life and has a new life that is far better than what she had, just as Chicago became a better city after being rebuilt.

“A Twist of Water” is a love story. Not a typical love story, but one of the love of a city ( Chicago, which was “born out of the water”) but the love of a parent who opted to give up a baby to a couple ( albeit same sex partners) who had love to give, and of the man who loves and adores the girl that he has been left to care for despite her fear of the future and the past. Jira, after meeting her birth mother and seeing that Noah is indeed her family accepts life as it is and decides to go forward and make her life better instead of trying to keep the past which can never return. Family is what it is all about and in the end, Jira accepts that Noah is indeed her “family” and that if Liam makes him happy, then she must accept his happiness as her happiness.

This is a very moving and touching story directed with a great sense of feeling and heart by Erica Weiss, who helped to create this wonderful and moving story. The set by Stephen H. Carmody is mostly a video projection screen with projections designed by John Boesche and some marvelous photos of old Chicago making this almost a history of the birth and rebirth of our great city. On the eve of the 2011 Mayoral election, it would have been very cool to have all the candidates in the audience and see their reactions to this glorious story of our city and some of the people who call this their home! The music and sound by Lindsay Jones and the lighting by Sean Mallary are the icing on the cake of this marvelous theatrical experience. I will suggest that you bring some extra Kleenex with you as there are moments where your eyes will swell to the point where the tears cannot be held back.

Yes, Chicago is called Chicago because of it’s water, but Chicago is special because of its people and each of the characters in this heart-warming story about a family that in the end understands the true meaning of “family”. I for one want to thank Route 66 for taking on a story that deals with adoption and what can happen when a child feels it is time to seek out the birth parent as well as dealing with the non traditional family in a time when more of these “families” are coming to be and are getting accepted by the general population and the legal establishments. Try to think how you would feel if your mate was in a hospital bed, near death and you were told that you could not be with them because you lacked a piece of paper- this play gets to this point and what transpired because this happened. This is what I wrote when this production made it’s debut on Belmont at Theatre Wit.                

 

 

 

Now, this production has moved to The Mercury Theater, less than a mile away, a much larger theater, although still filled with the intimacy that is needed for this marvelous production. In fact, I found it played even better on a normal stage instead f the “stadium seating” in the prior venue, allowing the audience a much better look into the faces and the eyes of these characters. As a theater reviewer, attending 5-7 productions a week, it is not often that I find myself wanting to go back to a play that I just saw, one with the same cast, just a different house, but I am extremely glad that I did.

The say that love is even better the second time around, and viewing this highly emotional story about love, love lost and love regained; about family and about how people, like a city can come back from almost fatal destruction to be strong once more; a story of hope and  truth- filled with marvelous dialog, some of which escaped on first viewing was a tremendous experience. I feel even stronger about this production than I did before! Tovar,Pearson and both the Browns have kept their intensity  and the emotional roller coaster ride continues since the original opening. These are powerful actors who run the full gamut of emotions, but the script allows them to feel the words of Caitlin Montanye Parrish.Director Erica Weiss has made very few adjustments in moving to the larger stage area, but the little ones she has made work to perfection. The projections are easier to follow now, so if you have not seen “A Twist of Water”, you need to make your reservation and plans now as you have only until  June 5th with performances as follows:

Thursdays 7:30 p.m.,Fridays 8 p.m., Saturdays 4 and 8 p.m. ( hard to believe these actors can handle two in one day, but they do) and Sundays at 4 and 8 p.m.

If you have seen it, you might want to go again, and bring a friend!

Tickets range from $38.50- $44.50 well worth it! and can be purchasd  by calling 773-325-1700 or online at www.mercurytheaterchicago.com

The Mercury Theater, now being managed by L.Walter Stearns ( who picked a winner for his first production) is located at 3745 N. Southport ( just blocks from Wrigley Field)

Southport has many great eating spots and some parking on the street, but they do have valet parking at The Mercury.

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