Highly Recommended***** Profiles Theatre Company , one of the masters of “storefront staging”, with its new production, a World Premiere, proves why it is the “master” ,as they bring their magic to Deirde O’Connor’s “Assisted Living” now onstage at The Second Stage in . Directed by Artistic Director Joe Jahraus, “Living” is a stunning look at how lives can be affected by those we live with or rely on. This story revolves around the Kelly family; Anne ( brilliantly portrayed by Stacy Stoltz)a librarian, who because of her mother ,has given up her life to take care of the woman who gave her that life. Her brother Jimmy ( deftly handled by Layne Manzer) is a deadbeat, who avoids accepting any responsibility. Anne has moved back into the home where she grew up to take care of her mother and continues to go through caretakers for the days, when she must work. As the play opens, we are in the disheveled kitchen ( a very realistic kitchen with working appliances and running water designed by David Ferguson) where Anne is interviewing a young man, Levi ( marvelously played by Jordan Stacey) who desires the job of caretaker ( not nurse) for her mom.
During this interview, one in which Anne appears to in command of the situation, this young man who opens up to his negatives convinces Anne that despite these negatives, he is indeed a caring person who will take care of her mother as if she was his own family. She is the grown up, he the child and as they communicate, we see the tides begin the reveral process. Her choices are simple- either a caretaker to make sre that her mother is safe from harming herself or placing her into a home where in a matter of time, she will slowly fade into the past. Jimmy is of no help, but allows this choice of hiring Levi to be done.
As time goes on, Levi appears to be very able and a relationship begins between them. He has a key to the house, prepares meals, takes care of Mother and spends more time with Anne, making her feel like a vibrant person instead of an old maid. As it turns out, their is a mishap and Mother is taken to the hospital where once again, brothe Jimmy is not to be found. Levi, however is there to ease the pain for Anne. The doctors say that an operation is needed to repair the hip or that Mother may have to be put in a nursing home or at least an assisted living residence. Jimmy later shows up and says that he will move back into the family residence to help with his mother, but he also has something that he has a hidden secret. Her name is Christina ( Shannon Hollander) a young girl who Jimmy had worked with, who is now with his child and has been asked to leave her parent’s home.
So here we are; Mother Kelly in rehab; Jimmy and his pregnant girlfriend, Anne – all living under one roof and as it turns out,a little love blossoms between Levi and Anne- for the most part, for Anne it is physical and emotional release of stress and probably the fear of aging alone; for Levi, it is the desire to have someone to love, someone to replace the mother he never had. At this pint, with all the turmoil, we see a transformation in the relationship between Anne and Levi, he becoming the adult, her the child and as he matures, the baby is born and the mother is gone. The house now has a loving family as Jimmy becomes a man who can handle responsibility and Anne becomes a loving Aunt, and all in all, each character in this sharply written, perfectly acted production becomes renewed with more purpose in life and the ability to rely on others for help and of greater importance to be there for the others.
Jeffrey Levin’s original music ( and sound), along with Bekki Lambrecht’s lighting complete the picture. There is no mention in the program or press release as to the prop designer for this show, but this is a set full of props and they were all where they needed to be and just right to serve as the “icing on the cake” for this slick 100 minutes ( no intermission) of great story-telling. Entertaining and yet, with a message that is of importance to all of us. It is not often that any of us recognize tha stage manager, the person who is behind the scenes throughout the production run , making sure that every prop is in its place as well as actors) and every cue is handled. With a small crew Fernando Alvarez truly shows his “stuff”!
“Assisted Living” will continue its run in the intimate Second Stage Theater , located at 3408 N. Sheffield ( at Clark) through December 18th with performances as follows:
Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m.,Saturday at 5 and 8 p.m.,Sunday at 5 p.m.
Tickets range from $35-$40 ( students and seniors get $5 off) and can be purchased by calling 773-549-1815 or online at www.profilestheatre.org
This is an area of high congestion and parking may be a problem, but there is a lot at the corner of Clark and Newport that will take care of theater patrons and the meters on the street only go until 9 p.m., so you can get away with a low parking fee ( if you are lucky to find one)