Sometimes, when we are sent press releases, and read the synopsis, we find that the person who did the press release may never have read or seen the play. I was a little shocked by the explanation of the Chicago Premiere of John Kolvenbach’s “Goldfish”, now being presented by Route 66 Theatre Company at their new home, The Greenhouse Theater Center. In the release they tell us that “this is a story of a young man who raises his father, then leaves home, meets a young woman, who undoes him etc. We raise our children to leave us, to walk out into the world. But then they do.”.
Confused? I know I was. I was unsure what I could expect tonight, except that I have enjoyed the works that this company brings to the stage and director Damon Kiely has put together a solid cast to bring these characters to life. Now let me tell you about this 90 minute drama (with some comic touches). The play opens in the kitchen (this set is amazingly clever by Collette Pollard) of father, Leo (the always reliable and perfect Francis Guinan) and his son Albert (deftly handled by Alex Stage). Albert is heading off to college and is explaining to his dad how he has arranged everything so that his dad will not have to worry about money at all. While this seems a little strange, we learn that his retired dad has some problems when it comes to money and what he does with those dollars that he gets into his hands. I won’t tell you more as it is best for you to watch the saga unfold.
Off at school, Albert, a sort of loner who wants nothing to do with all these swell-headed rich kids, however, he meets a girl, Lucy (the adorable Tyler Meredith) who it seems has selected him as her “boyfriend”. They develop a relationship that is very special, but neither has opened up completely about their family. Thanksgiving break brings Lucy home to her mother, Margaret (played to perfection by another Chicago favorite, Shannon Cochran) who relies on drink and cigarettes to make it through her days. During this scene we learn a great deal about Lucy’s parents, their relationship and how she came to be who she is.
As the play goes on, we see the true chemistry develop between Lucy and Albert (the actors themselves appear to have become their characters) and we are in hopes that there will be a happy ending. Then, catastrophe strikes for Albert as he must return home due to his father’s situation. Again, not wanting to ruin the story for you I will only say that his dad is like a “Goldfish” with his personal problem- as stated in the play, ” a goldfish will keep eating as much food as you place in the bowl, until the food he craves kills him”. Leo’s problem is very close to this.
Albert, not wanting to deal with this situation anymore decides that he will marry Lucy and they will take care of each other as they complete school as a family. But due to the situations they are living in, Albert cannot go back to school and Margaret refuses to give her blessing to a wedding. A little time goes by as we watch Leo clean up his act under the guidance of his son, who has now taken on the parent role, so to speak. Albert however, deep in his heart feels that he cannot deal with life as it is. Here he is, serving as the “parent” to his father when the love of his life is in another city. It is Leo who makes the supreme sacrifice for his son in the final scene, allowing us to walk away with a warm glow in our hearts.
The technical aspects of this show are wonderful. The set as mentioned has walls that move and change from one residence to another without stopping the action. There was one brief scene where the wall did not move, but I doubt anyone really cared as the story was far more important. Lee Keenan’s lighting, Josh Horvath’s sound and original music worked to perfection, and Jesse Gaffney handles the many props with great expertise.
“Goldfish” will continue at The Greenhouse Theater Center located at 2257 N. Lincoln Avenue through July 12th with performances as follows:
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 4 and 8 p.m.
Sundays 2 p.m.
Running time is 90 minutes (no intermission)
Tickets are $39-$43 with discounts for seniors and students. This is a bargain price for theater such as this. You can buy at the box office, by calling 773-404-7336 or online at www.greenhousetheater.org
To learn more about Route 66, visit www.route66theatre.org
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Goldfish”.
There is parking at the old Children’s Memorial Garage just North of the theater and street parking ( now mostly metered)