Anyone who knows Timeline Theatre Company, knows that they are a top company in Chicago, bringing to their stage stories that are inspired by history that connects with the social and political issues of today. The current production, J.T. Rogers’ “Blood and Gifts”is an intensely written thriller that takes us deep into the secrets that powered the Soviet/Afghan war of the 1980’s. The Soviet was intent on the destruction of Afghanistan. This was the time of “The Cold War” and what transpires in this story of a CIA agent,James Warnock ( another outstanding performance and character created by Timothy Edward Kane) and Afghan Warlord , Abdulah Khan ( a powerful portrayal by Kareem Bandealy), who work together, becoming “friends” to make the Soviets lose their power over Afghanistan. This is a show of the behind closed door transactions between the two as well as our English allies represented by Simon Craig ( another powerful performance by Raymond Fox). Most of us have no knowledge of the secrets our government has in assisting to get what we want and this cleverly written and well directed (brilliant work by Nick Bowling) truly makes one think about how these things get done.
Once again, Timeline makes their lobby area and a portion of the set available to patrons to look at items from these times and maps of actual areas that were involved. In this production they have arranged the seating area on two sides, bringing the audience much closer to the action on the set ( Collette Pollard has designed a two tiered set where we see action above us as well as on the stage).Along the walls of the upper deck we have projections ( Mike Tutaj) allowing us to see dates and places where the action takes place, and the numerous and very real looking props are designed and assembled by Julia Eberhardt. The original music , very fitting, is composed by Habibullah Wardak and Mikhail Fiskel, who also handles the sound and Jesse Klug’s lighting effects are sheer perfection. The costuming is handled by Jenny Mannis.
While all of the technical parts give us a realistic look at the action, it is the cast of amazing actors who make the story come alive. In addition to the fabulous Mr. Kane, Mr. Fox and Mr. Bandealy, you will also get to see the following the always reliable :Terry Hamilton as Dmitri Gromov ( the Russian agent in Afghanistan),Anish Jethmalani ( as Colonel Afridi, who cares little about anything but himself and what he can take away from this situation) Behzad Dabu ( Sayeed, right hand man to warlord Khan)Craig Spidle ( Senator Birch),David Parkes (Walter Barnes,Warnock’s boss),Josh Odor, Emily Ariel Rogers,Andrew L. Saenz, Peter Sipla, Don Teri and Owais Ahmed. There will be a few changes during the long run, but I can assure you, those moving into the roles, will be just as outstanding as the current players.
This is a fast paced production making the 2 1/2 hours ( one intermission) seem much quicker, but I will say you need to pay close attention as there are many little sub-stories about the lives these men lead and the ups and downs of the wheeeling-dealing they must do to gain entry into a world they know little of. The play is about people, forced to make decisions , ones that will have a great effect on not only their government, but that of the world itself. There are no perfect answers to solving these world problems, thus there are no really good choices/decisions. What they are forced to do is to make decisions that are the least “bad” ones with less repercussions for all involved.
I am sure that this will be another award winning production for Timeline and one that will possibly be extended beyond the scheduled July 28th date. While July 28th seems so far off, the intimate space at Timeline, located at 615 West Wellington Avenue ( at Broadway) is small, so the number of audience members per performance is somewhat limited. I suggest you do not put this one off, whether a history buff or just a theater lover, this should be on your “must see” list.
Performances are as follows:
Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.
Fridays at 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 4 and 8 p.m.
Sundays at 2 p.m. ( no performance on June 30th)
Tickets range from $32-$42 a solid value for theater of this quality and students save $10 ( with ID)
To ensure you get in to see this , call the box office at 773-281-8463 ext 6 or visit www.Timelinetheatre.com
There is easy access by public transportation and discounted parking available at Standard Parking-Broadway Center at 2846 N. Broadway at Surf-$8 and at Century Mall 2836 N. Clark Street, $9) both with VALIDATION, so bring your parking stub to the theater.
There are many free post show discussions, so you might want to see these dates on the website prior to making your reservations.
To see what others say, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Blood and Gifts”