Wednesday August 23rd 2017

“Going To A Place Where You Already Are”

Most of you know that I adore the work at Redtwist Theatre, that little “black box” on Bryn Mawr, where they continue to bring strong drama in an intimate setting. It is difficult not to, based on the work they continue to bring to their stage. Currently, they are presenting the Chicago premiere of a play that was a huge success at South Coast Rep, “Going To A Place Where You Already Are”, written by Bekah Brunstetter. It is a story about an older couple, Roberta (the always reliable Kathleen Ruhl) and Joe (deftly handled by Art Fox), who have become atheists questioning their beliefs and if in fact there might be a heaven in their future.

When Roberta finds out that she has some medical problems, and sees the “light” her ideals begin to change and although Joe attempts to convince her that there are no facts to substantiate the feelings she is having, due to some memories of her past life (before Joe), her thought process cannot be changed. There are some hidden facts from this review, as sharing them would take away from the power of the story that Brunstetter presents. I will tell you that there was a child in Roberta’s life and that Roberta and Joe have a grand-daughter. Well, not a real grand-daughter, but in fact a young girl that they helped raise who calls Roberta by her name and Joe “grandfather”. Her Name is Ellie (a solid performance by Abby Dillion).

Ellie is a work-from-home editor/writer who has no true relationships (other than the minimal one with Roberta and Joe, which will change as the 90 minute play progresses) until she meets Jonas (played to perfection by Joel Rodriguez). Jonas also works from home, and as a person with disability, has his own emotional problems to deal with. He has lived a life of rejection and when Ellie “picks him up” taking him to her home for the night, he finds a new meaning to life. For her, however, it was just a “slam-bam” one-nighter and she immediately cuts him off, emotionally.

As Ellie learns of her pseudo grand-mother’s health problem and goes to visit with her, her relationship with Jonas changes as does that with Roberta and Joe. There are some very emotional scenes in this small story, and, again, not wanting to give anything away, let me tell you that the story-line is rich and very strong as projected by director Matt Hawkins. One of the problems with a theater such as Red Twist and its very intimate stage, is using it to the best advantage. There are many scene changes in this production, and while the set is fairly simple (designed by Yeaji Kim) the number of changes makes it challenging for a director. How much time can we allow the audience to watch the set change and retain their focus on the story. In this production, the changes are done smoothly and without hesitation, so we never lose sight of where we are going with both story-lines (or are there three?).

There is another actor in this production. His name is Collin Quinn Rice, a newcomer to this company and one that I am sure we will be seeing more of in the years to come. He brings to life Angel ( as well as all the other roles that bring the puzzle pieces together) . Again, I cannot get into all of his portrayals, but will gladly tell you that each one is different from the others and he is a wonderful spirit on the stage. Welcome to Red Twist! As we get older, many of us look at the choices we have previously made and review if they were correct, or if they are still correct. Is there a Heaven? Is there an “after-life”? Does the soul go to a place where it can make sure those left behind are taken care of? Or, is it all just over? Brunstetter takes us deep into the inner mind of a person who is facing the end of their time and her choices, and are they right?

As someone who has been close to what could have easily been my end, and seeing what I think may have been the “light”, I often wonder if any of this is real. Did I see anything on that fateful night? Was I in shock? In this story, we have a person who gave up God and religion due to some failures in her youth. Married to a new husband, who is also a non-believer, they enjoy their lives and each other. When they are faced with changes, how difficult is it to review their thoughts and maybe see a different light? The one that tells that they may be wrong? This is a keenly directed production with five very skilled actors who truly feel the words of the playwright.

This is a play that deals with religious belief and makes it hard to rate, which is why I have only given it a “recommended”. Perhaps, prior to all this “critic schtick” that has taken place since “Pass Over”, I felt that this was enough. There is some humor in this gut-wrenching story about how one can look at what was previously decided and realize that the first choice may not have been what was destined to be the right one.

“Going To A Place Where You Already Are” will continue at Redtwist Theatre located at  1044 West Bryn Mawr thru July 23rd with performances as follows:

Thursdays  7:30 p.m.

Fridays  7:30 p.m.

Saturdays  7:30 p.m.

Sundays  3 p.m.

Tickets range from $30-$35 (students and seniors, save $5) and can be reserved by calling 773-728-7529 or online at www.redtwist.org

There is street parking- some metered, some free and on Sundays, the meters are FREE. The Red Line is still the best way to come, exiting at Bryn Mawr, walking East one block.

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Going To A Place Where You Already Are”

Running Time  93 minutes (NO INTERMISSION).

 

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