Recommended*** Over the years, I have enjoyed watching the productions staged by Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, the only Equity company devoted to bringing the works of female theater artists to the stage. Their new home on Ridge Avenue is one of just the right amount of intimacy for their bringing these works to the audience so that they truly feel they are peering into the lives of the characters. Their current production, written by Lisa Dilman is titled “American Wee-Pie” which I found to be an unusal title, until I got into the story. This production which is fun to watch , but might have been stronger as a 90-100 minute play instead of two hours with a 15 minute intermission, deals with a small town called Gardensend, somewhere in the Midwest and the time could be today ( or yesterday, or even tomorrow). The story opens with Zed ( who in reality is named Tim) suitcase in hand heading from point A to point B ( which we are told about later).Kurt Brocker does an excellent job of making this character come alive as a sort of “everyman” or in reality a no-one. Turns out Zed has returned home after being in Chicago for many years to his mother’s cremation service. Walking in a daze, he is almost hit by a bus, but is saved by Linz ( deftly handled by Jennifer Pompa) who as it turns out went to high school with him. As they talk and she tells him of the changes since he left, she invites him to call her while he is in town.
Zed goes back to the home he grew up in and finds his sister Pam ( Jane Baxter miller). They have very little of a relationship and sit turns out their mother left them very little, except the house. They talk about the poor economy and their lives which were sort on unhappy. Pam has a job she hates and Zed, a boring job, and life, but all he anticipated as he never was a memorable person growing up. He does go to visit Linz and her husband,Pableu ( played to sweet perfection by Mark Ulrich) in their cafe where he bakes cupcakes that are amazing. It turns out that fate may have made their paths cross as Zed has a palate that can detect all the ingredients of his cupcakes and wants Zed to become a part of their life and business. Zed takes the plunge and decides to give up his boring “career” and take a second chance at life ( maybe this time, he will actually have one).
The other characters in this story are Phil , Malcolm and Pete ( all played by Keith Kupferer with just the right comic touch). They are the mailman who found their mother when she passed away, a cemetary salesman who develops a relationship with Pam and one of Zed’s co-workers who when fired, dropped dead getting on the elevator, but comes back as a guiding spirit for Zed’s new life. The story is one of sweetness in that bot Pam and Zed do play a second act in life as each of them takes a journey they never could have anticipated. While the cupcake business thrives and Zed is very happy, when it turns out that a “big-box” bakery comes in with lower prices, Linz and Pableu are forced to let him go. Zed thinks back to his youth and watching his mother bake pies and discovers that he can make smaller pies with cake in the crust which he calls “We-Pie” and his new world opens up saving the day for his friends and allowing him to be “somebody” at last.
Directed by Megan Carney on a set by Regina Garcia, this is a smooth running story. The set is all locales with only a door swinging around to let us know where we are.Ms Garcia has used this small stage to full advantage and Joanna Iwanicka has assembled some wonderful props to fill the kitchen, the house and the stage.Jessica Carson’s lighting and Joshua Horvath’s sound along with the costumes by Lauren Lowell are the “icing on the cake” ( thought this was the perfect spot for this line).The only problem you may have in watching this play is wanting to partake of the cupcakes that are described in the bakery scenes. I know that my sweet tooth was crying out.
To partake of the deliciousness of this play, you can call the box office at 773-334-7728 or visit the website at www.RivendellTheatre.org
“American Wee-Pie will run through February 16th with performances as follows:
Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m. and Saturdays at 4 and 8 p.m.
Tickets are $30 -open seating
The theater is located at 5779 N. Ridge so you need to come a bit early as there is no parking on Ridge. There are free spaces along all the side streets and of course along Senn High School and at Senn’s lot behind the school at Thorndale. CTA can get you there as well.The 22 Clark Street or #36 Broadway and a short walk to the theater ( even the Bryn Mawr Redline works).
To see what others say, visit www.theatreinchicago.com go to review round-up and click on “American Wee-Pie”