” Love, they say, is a many splendid thing”, something that each of us strives to attain with the right person, but marriage is not always about love. In the story of Ethan Frome, a novel by EdithWharton, the main character marries a woman because she took care of his mother during her illness and through her death. In the adaptation of this novel into a play by Laura Eason, who also directed this sterling production, Ms. Eason fills in some of the gaps to make the entire story more complete. The story takes place around the turn of the century ( last century) in a small New England community. Ethan ( a strong performance by Philip R. Smith) is a farmer who supplies lumber to the locals and lives with his mother. He cannot take care of her and tend his duties so he brings in Zenobia /Zena( deftly handled by Lisa Tejero) who upon her death convinces Ethan to marry her. Ms. Eason, in order to truly tell us this story, in her adaptation starts the story at the end and then takes us back through Henry Morton ( a charming character played by Andrew White) who takes us back in time as he supposes how and why Ethan is the way he is.
No sooner does Ethan marry Zena, she complains of her pains and tells Ethan that she has arranged for a relative to come and stay with them to help. Mattie ( played to perfection by Louise Lamson) is young and attractive and finds Ethan charming as he does her. What starts as a family friendship develops into a real romance. Her youth and vibrant energy awakens in him something that he never thought could happen and when Zena goes away for medical treatment or to find out what her medical problems are, we see a love blossom; a love that is real and pure, the passion that was in Ethan’s soul but was never unleashed, until now.
When Zena comes home, she advises Ethan that they need to hire a girl to help in the house and send Mattie on her way. While, Ethan knows this would be for the best, he cannot let the woman that brought him to life leave him with the sad existence he had before her arrival and so he plans to find a way for her to remain with him. At this point, I cannot tell you the rest of what take s place for fear of ruining the story, but I will tell you that this is a very moving theatrical experience and I would suggest at least two tissues for the next to last scene, a whirling moment when two lovers share what is in their hearts with each other. The way this story unfolds is an experience that allows us to see just how powerful and beautiful true love can be. Eason also allows us to see that we often make choices that are not in our best interest and when we do, we suffer and endure the consequences of these choices. This is a strong cast handling all of the feelings and emotions contained in the story. I also want to applaud Erik Lochtefeld, who serves as the “ensemble” taking on all the other roles.
This is a beautiful production on a marvelous set ( Daniel Ostling) and as usual Lookingglass Theatre’s stage is not the same as the last. This is almost arena style with seating on three sides and the intimacy of the seating arrangement allows the audience to feel the intimacy of the touching story. Christine Binder’s lighting, Mara Blumenfeld’s costumes, Rick Sims’ sound , William Anderson’s props and Kevin O’Donnell’s chilling music make this 90 minutes of theater as beautiful as the story itself.
“Ethan Frome” will continue at The Lookingglass Theatre located at the old Water Tower Water Works, 821 N. Michigan Avenue ( at Pearson) through April 17th with performances as follows:
Tickets range from $34 to $62 and are available at the box office, by phone at 312-337-0665 or online at www.lookingglasstheatre.org
There will be NO SHOW on April 9th, and there will be an added Tuesday night performance at 7:30 p.m. on April 5th.
There is a special Target Saturday, where a limited number of matinee tickets can be purchased on a buy one-get one free basis and there are some special student tickets available each performance at $20 ( with ID and subject to availability)
Discounted parking is available at The John Hancock Building and at Olympia Centre Self Park (161 E. Chicago Ave. Bring your ticket to the box office for validation.