Timeline Theatre, located in their home on Wellington, is always a theatrical experience, not just a play. They bring plays to Chicago audiences that deal with actual events and history allowing us to think about some of the history that we have been alive for (at least when you get into my age bracket). Their current production, the Chicago premiere of “Chimerica” written by British playwright, Lucy Kirkwood, is one that will grab your attention from the very start and hold you there for three hours (there is an intermission), but it will seem as though the play was much shorter because of the slick direction of Nick Bowling, who keeps the action moving from scene to scene.
The story is about June 1989. At the time, in China, the government had instituted a crackdown on a rally that was taking place in one “Tiananmen Square”, which many of us can remember as a terrible day in history. If you think back, you will recall a picture of a lone man standing before a line of tanks. In his hand, there are bags of sorts. This image captivated the world and appeared in all the newspapers and on the news programs and magazines. This man became a symbol as a hero, who chose to face his enemies, and yet, when it was all over, he was gone. Never to be heard from again.
Our play takes us forward twenty years to 2009 and a photojournalist who wants answers to his question about this hero, known as “the tank man”. Our photographer, Joe Schofield (brilliantly played by Coburn Goss) returns to China to get his answers. He is met there by his old friend, Zhang Lin (deftly handled by Norman Yap), a professor, who we later learn has some history dealing with the events of that fearful day. FYI- we see this character as a youth as well in flashbacks played by Dan Lin (who also plays many other characters and do so with style and flair, allowing us to always know who he is).
This play is somewhat of a “thriller” or mystery and in order not to spoil it for you, I will tell you that Kirkwood takes us back in time several times, and if you watch very closely, you will see the pieces of the puzzle begin to fit. Joe, in his search, overlooks the obvious, which many audience members did as well, until the last scenes, when she brings us to the place she wants us to be. The ensemble in this production is outstanding, and many of them play many roles. As the love interest for Joe, Eleni Pappageorge gives Tessa a very realistic and fun girl who is looking for love and finds it, but does she? Chris Rickett (who also handles the fight choreography) does a solid job as Mel, Joe’s friend and ally. The ensemble is composed of Christine Bunuan, Wai Yim, Cheryl Hamada, Caron Buinis, Tom Hickey Janelle Villas and H.B. Ward. Well done!
Timeline is a unique space, flexible for different shows. In this production, the seating is on two sides with the stage in the middle. However, there are two main areas of action, one on each side as designed by John Culbert. They also have a balcony in the upper level that is used twice, cleverly. The lighting by Brian Sidney Bembridge is wonderful, never leaving us in the darkness. Andre J. Pluess handles the sound and the projections ( there are many and they are worth the price of the tickets on their own merit- wow!) by Mike Tutaj truly assist in the telling of this story. Emily Guthrie’s props and Sally Dolembo’s costumes are the finishing touches of the tech side. Once again, Timeline brings its audiences a piece of history that many of us only knew the surface part of. FYI- the ending is one that will take your breath away!
“Chimerica” will continue at Timeline Theatre located at 615 West Wellington in Chicago (just West of Broadway) thru July 31st with performances as follows:
Thursdays 7:30 p.m.
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 3 and 8 p.m.
Sundays 2 p.m.
NO SHOW Sunday, June 26th/ ADDED show Tuesday, June 21st 7:30 p.m.
Discussion Events are free and open to the public- to learn more, visit www.timelinetheatre.com/chimerica/events.htm
Tickets range from $38-$51 depending on which performance
Students with valid ID $10 off Military $5 off
Ticket buyers between the ages of 10-35 can join Timeline’s free MyLine program www.timelinetheatre.com/myline
To purchase tickets call 773-281-TIME (8463) or www,timelinetheatre.com
Parking is available at Standard Parking Garage at Broadway Center- 2846 N. Broadway or at Century Mall 2836 N. Clark. Make sure you bring your ticket to the theater for validation discounts.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Chimerica”