Next Theatre Company, that hidden little gem in North Evanston is known for doing plays that are “socially provocative and artistically adventurous”. They desire to promote awareness through theater.Their 2013/14 season, their 33rd kicked off with the Chicago Premiere of Rinne Groff’s “Compulsion” based on the story of Meyer Levin’s obsession over his right to create the stage version of Anne Frank’s Diary. Groff has changed his name to Sid Silver, but it is in fact the story of Levin as we go through a period from the early 1950’s until 1966 when he at last gets his production ( over the award winning stage adaptation by Goodrich and Hackett) on stage.
This is a difficult story to tell in that we are dealing with a man who lives for only one thing- seeing his work be the only work that can tell the story. Directed by Devon de Mayo on a set by Grant Sabin that is an open wall of doors that represent offices in the first act but get a little confusing in the second act. The first Act takes place in America from 1951 thru 1958/ the Second Act in Israel, 1966-1968 and the final scene back in New York. There are three actors in this production,Mick Webber taking on the challenging role of Sid Silver, the man obsessed with his “play”. Webber, handles Silver’s powerful personality well, although their are times, when I thought he could be gentler ( in particular with his wife ( a solid performance by Jenny Avery, who also plays all the female roles and handles the voice for the “female puppet of Anne, who lives with them, or is this just a spirit? The very able John Byrnes plays the other male roles, all very solid and each one different enough to make you feel that more than one actor played them. A tip of the hat to Mr. Byrnes.
This is a play that will make you think and maybe even question how we think. Silver will do anything to get “his” version of Frank’s story on the stage- even lies and deception. He sues everyone who stands in his way and is willing to sacrifice all that he has built to reach this end. He was a noted author ( Levin, of course, “Frankie and Johnny” for one), who found himself so dedicated to telling his stry that his every waking moment was spent trying to get this done. This is a story of determination and love. The love is really about Sid’s love for the work ( and maybe deep down for Anne’s memory) and wanting to prove to the world that his way of telling the story was THE only way it should be told!
This production is strong and the three actors are powerful. The story is about a real person although the name has been changed ,but Levin did write a book named “Compulsion, which was the story of Leopold and Loeb and in 1974 he published a book named “Obsession” which is whatI am sure Groff used to start her on doing this play. We all know a “Sid Silver’! That person who walks a thin line and is always “right”. Meyer Levin was such a man and by telling his story, we keep alive the ideals that people have and the memory of Ann Frank. Over the years, many questions have risen about the diary and if a young girl really wrote it. The story it tells is one that must be told, generation after generation so that the atrocities that took place can never happen again.
“Compulsion” wil continue at Next, located at 927 Noyes Street in Evanston through November 17th with performances as follows:
Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Sundays at 2 p.m.
Saturday afternoons at 4 p.m. in November.
Tickets range from $30-$40 and are available by calling 847-475-1875 ext 2 or online at www.nexttheatre.org
There is some parking at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center as well as on the street( metered on Noyes) and there is a stop ( Noyes) for the Evanston “el”.
On Sundays, talk backs with the artistic staff and artists will meet with the audience to discuss what they just saw. There is no extra charge for this.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Compulsion”