Tuesday May 30th 2017

“Elling”

Recommended What is normalcy? This is the question that is answered in “Elling”, onstage now at Redtwist Theatre on Bryn Mawr. Redtwist is known for bringing “white hot drama to their tiny black box of a theater, but with a red twist”, and with this adaptation (Simon Bent) from the novel by Ingevar Ambjornsen, in adaptation by Axel Hellstenius in collaboration with Peter Naess of  the original movie , “Blood Brothers” under the direction of Steve Scott, they have lived up their tradition. I find it hard to believe that the Broadway production closed in a short run as I found this tale of two men, men who had been institutionalized and now attempting to become members of society a warm and funny story. In order to be completely honest, I arrived at the theater a bit late ( Redtwist has moved their starting time from 8 to 7:30 and so I watched act one in the lobby on the monitor. The only distractions were the crew members who had to sneak through doors in the walls to change sets pieces or put props in place. Despite that, I felt that I never missed the quality of the performance and once I took my seat for the second act, felt that I was in tune with everything and had not missed anything. I do suggest that you make sure you are on time as the monitor keeps you with the story, but certainly doesn’t allow you to witness the pure chemistry between the two men, Kjell ( Peter Oyloe) and Elling ( Andrew Jessop). These actors have worked together before and they do have something special in how they interpret their roles and play off each other. I am sure that Scott had a great deal of influence in their characters, but there is a sort of magic in watching these two men work together.

Kjell is very different from Elling, a sort of wild man who enjoys food, drink and women. Elling, on the other hand was a “Mama’s Boy” who loved his mother with all his heart and soul. He is neat and tidy, perfect in every way, aloner , while Kjell is outgoing and fun loving., Can they make a life for themselves? Can they live amongst what is called normal society? These questions are handled with great skill by these actoirs in this story , a sort of coming of age at adulthood. They are placed in an apartment togeher and are supervised by Frank ( Michael Sherwin) who is to make sure they can handle what they face or return to the institution. Along the way they each meet characters that will change their lives; Kjell, a pregnant neighbor, Reidun ( the lovely Cameron Feagin) who shows him what love and caring are all about and for Elling, a poet named Alfons ( another brilliant performance by Redtwist regular Brian Parry. Alfons becomes the inspiration for Elling to  allow what is inside him to escape and Reidun gives Kjell a reason not to return to the asuylum, ever!

There are some very funny moments in this production skillfully done so as not to take away from the story line. One can adapt to something different in their lives, if there is a reason or someone to inspire them. In this beautifully told ( and staged) story we have a gentle and heartwarming evening of quality theater in a storefront black box on Bryn Mawr Avenue. While we cannot ignore being on   main street with lots of young people making some noises, the actors in this production are strong enough to keep our focus on the production itself and their characters. The set, a clever use of a very tiny space was designed by Jessop with some clever nuances and the lighting by John Kelly is quite mood setting. Sara Isom had lots of props to deal with ( many of which Oyloe ate or others drank) and the other cast members, Melissa Walker, Marssie Mencotti and Scott Butler took on their roles  and helped with set changes proving that a production is as solid as the parts that compose it and each member of this cast made an important contribution.

“Elling” will continue at Redtwist Theatre located at 1044 W. Bryn Mawr through October 30th with performances as follows:

Thursday,Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m. ( REMEMBER THAT) and Sundays at 3 p.m.

Tickets are a mere $25-$30 ( Seniors and students save $5) a real bargain for theater of this quality.

This is a tiny black box, so do not wait to order/reserve your seat- call 773-728-7529 or e-mail michael@redtwist.org  Credit cards are accepted. There are plenty of dining spots in the area and metered parking, but the easiest way to get there- use the CTA Redline and you are only a half block from the door.Enjoy!

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