Thursday September 21st 2017

“Everything is Illuminated”

Highly EverythingisIlluminated_11-300x225 Over the years, we have been told stories relating to the atrocities of The Second World War. One might ask, how many more of these plays can we witness? The answer is as many as possible, if they are well written! Simon Block’s adaptation for the stage of Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Everything is Illuminated”, a chilling look at a young man’s quest for knowledge relative to the woman who saved his Grandfather from the Nazis in the Ukraine. The character , Jonathan ( played to perfection by Brad Smith) is a young writer from New York who has decided, after finding a photo of this woman to travel back to this place and thank her for giving him his father ( and therefore his life). He has hired a driver and interpreter ( the driver is played by one of Chicago’s finest character actors, William Norris and the interpreter, his grandson,Alex, played by Alex Goodrich). Alex is not as good an interpreter as Jonathan expected, but in fact as the story goes on , we learn more about his life of abuse and unanswered questions about who he is as well.

The trip is one of confusion to start with as Grandfather ( Norris) has a white cane, dark glasses and a dog ( who is only represented by the wonderful sound person (Nick Keenan) and while she ( Sammy Davis Junior, Jr.) is never seen, there are times one feels that this dog is truly on the stage. Grandfather doesn’t want to visit all the locations that Jonathan has requested, but Alex feels that since Jonathan has paid for ALL, they must allow him to follow his quest, his impossible dream, so to speak. As the drive through the small towns of Rural Ukraine, they make stops searching for the lady in the photo. When they come to a small hovel of a house with an elder lady sitting on the porch ( solidly played by Ann Whitney), Alex and Jonathan feel that they have found the woman in the photo.

This is where the story gets stronger than I would have thought it would be, as secrets of the past begin to come out. Jonathan has stated that” no one arrives on this Earth from nowhere. We are each a new page in a book that stretches back in time, and at the same time, an inspiration for what is to come” and as the story evolves and we learn a great deal more about Grandpa, we see that this statement is very close to reality. There are two other actors in this production, both playing many parts, present and characters in Jonathan’s story that is evolving from his thoughts as he feels the countryside and learns about the Ukraine. H. B. Ward and the lovely Sasha Gioppo. Both are superb at bringing all the parts of this story together. As we learn about each of our characters and their story, our hearts begin to reach out to them for what the past has done to them, but also, we gain an understanding of human nature when tragedy is waiting to happen. I will not fill you in on what comes up, but I will tell you that this is a story that will bring a tear to your eye.IlluminatedPromo

Directed by Devon de Mayo on a set designed by Grant Sabin that is filled with many treasures ( amazing props by Eileen Rozycki) this is a charmingly easy production to watch. The actors move the set pieces around as if choreographed and the use of the aisles fits perfectly. Heather Gilbert’s lighting and Miek van der Ploeg’s costumes are the final touches to the recipe for a wonderful and heartfelt ( as well as educational) theatrical experience from Next Theatre Company. There is a light touch to the start of the story, allowing us a chance to get to know these three men, who are very different, and yet very much akin. You can view this wonderful work  through March 31st at Next Theatre located at the Noyes Cultural center in North Evanston. The theater is located at 927 Noyes ( just East of Ridge Avenue) and north of the Downtown area, with plenty of free parking and an easy walk from the “el” stop at Noyes.

The performance schedule is as follows:

Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.,Fridays at 8 p.m.,Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.

There are also Saturday 4 p.m. performances starting March 9th.

Tickets are priced at $30-$40 and can be purchased by calling 847-475-1875 ext 2 or online at www.nexttheatre.org

To see what others say, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-UP and click at” Everything is Illuminated”

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