Wednesday October 18th 2017

“Blizzard ’67”

YASMINACARD2Highly Recommended **** Today, January  21st, 2017, it was near 60 degrees in the Chicago area. Fifty years ago, on January 24th, 1967, it was a near perfect and warm day in Chicago as well. In a matter of just a day, we had a change in the weather that brought us the Blizzard of 1967, a period that stands out in the  history of Chicago. Tonight, I attended the re-boot of the play, written by local playwright Jon Steinhagen, “Blizzard ’67” in the intimate space located in the 16th Street Theatre locate din Berwyn. FYI- in honor of their tenth year of bringing solid theater to the community, Artistic Director Ann Filmer ( who also directed this particular production) is bringing back many of the unique and special productions of their past.

“Blizzard ’67” is the story of four men, co-workers who drove to work each day in a “car-pool” ( this was a special form of transport during history where in order to conserve energy (gas and oil) and cut costs, people who lived near each other and worked at the same company would go in one car (instead of four). These four men, each a unique individual, were members of one of these unique units. They shared very little with each other, other than the place they went to each day, their near vicinity to each other, and the fact that each preferred not to use up more than their share of nature’s fuel. This was the 1960’s and there was a fuel crisis.

Steinhagen’s terse story takes us on a few days of the lives of these men. Day one, the journey as they go to their place of employment, and return home. Day one allows us entry into the characters themselves. Each of the men is unique. Three of them are married, living in homes with their spouses. The fourth, is single, living in an apartment. On the first day, we get to know more about each as they step out of the car (a 1963 Ford falcon that has some need of repairs) and we get some depth into their home lives and their families. What happens to these four individuals is unique and not wanting to spoil any of the events (they might be true, but are in fact, based on actual happenings and events) for you, so let me say, they stories of each and how they affect the others could be very real.Lopson

The four actors that make these characters become very real are Christian Stokes as Emery, the youngest, often referred to as “KID”,  Noah Simon, as Bell, the true “everyman” of the piece. Bell lives his life, as expected, doing nothing out of the norm, and just wanting to go from day -to- day, making it to the next one. Mark Pracht is a powerful Lanfield, the owner of the car in which these men start their journey and share their lives with each other, and us. He is strong and has been through more crisis situations than the others. He probably represents the anti-hero in this story. The fourth man, Henkin (a dynamic performance by Stephen Spencer) is our narrator and the person of the group who is content with his life and his being alone. Henken/Spencer takes on many other roles and truly shows his talents off to perfection. Again, I cannot tell you more as I would not want to ruin any of this sterling production. If you experienced this event, bring with you your memories. They have a place for you to record same and allow others to share your memories and moments of history.

The storm changes the lives of all four of these men, as it did for those of us who lived through it. I remember each and every day of the storm- driving from Lake Shore Drive home and taking over 4 hours to get the three plus miles. I recall finding a space under one of the viaducts, pulling in and then walking two blocks home, where the mini-grocery store in our building was filled with people buying food they may never eat. (everyone had to buy whatever they could. A week later, the garbage was filled with unopened containers). I had tickets to a hockey game that I was supposed to deliver to a client. I never did, but by Saturday night, thanks to the “L” system, I was able to trek down to Chicago Stadium and take my mind off the days of snow that we had just been witness to. For Chicagoans, the memory of that storm will live on and for our audiences, I would hope the theater community will find a way to keep this beautiful story where new audiences can learn of what transpired. Sort of like a “Bleacher Bums”, a Chicago tradition and experience!Henkin and men

Getting back to this solid production, the music by Barry Bennett and the sound help to bring the scenes and events together. Benjamin L. White’s lighting design serves well on the fairly stark set designed by Grant Sabin. Most of the walls serves as spaces for the projections of the snow and news coverage (Anthony Churchill) and the costumes (Rachel Sypniewski) are right out of my brother-in-law’s closet. Yes, Shelly still has all his 1960’s suits! The story is one that will cause a major reaction from those who lived through it! For those who only have heard about it, I suggest you pay very close attention, as these four men are pretty typical in what people felt (and may still), but what happened to them and how the lives of each  changed as depicted by Steinhagen and directed by Filmer is a truly joyful experience at the theater. This is a very small space, so I suggest that you decide when to go, and place your order quickly. It will only be onstage thru March 4th with performances as follows:

16thstreetThursdays  7:30 p.m.

Fridays  7:30 p.m.

Saturdays  4   and 8 p.m.

Tickets are $22 ($18 if you are a Berwyn resident) and there is free parking in the lot one block west of the theater, located at 6420 West 16th Street in Berwyn. To order your chance to view this classic, call 708-795-6704 or visit www.16thstreettheatre.org

Running time, just under 2 hours with a ten minute intermission.

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Blizzard ’67”

 

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