Tuesday August 22nd 2017


A big show in a little space! Every theater company, at one time or another looks at a script that they truly want to do and asks, “can we do this production in our intimate theater space”? One of our leading small theater companies, Chicago Dramatists, with probably one of the smallest venue spaces fears nothing and went head first into their current production, “Hickorydickory” a three act play written by Marisa Wegrzyn and directed by Russ Tutterow. This is a huge production in that it is almost three hours long ( but three of the shortest hours you will ever spend in a theater) and has a massive set ( Simon Lashford stunning watch repair shop is sheer perfection and the props by Jennifer J. Thusing are absolutely amazing). The story itself is unique in that it deals with our “mortal clock”, an internal clock that contains the exact time of our death. The setting for this play is a clock and watch repair shop located on the North Shore. This is no ordinary shop as the proprietor Jimmy has the unique ability to repair broken “mortal clocks”. In fact, he comes from a long line of watch repairers, but in the last two generations, this special talent truly made the shop a destination repair shop.

As the play opens , in the present day, we meet a happy family, Jimmy ( deftly handled by Thomas Gebbia, who also plays his father in Act two which goes back in time some 18 plus years), his wife Kate ( a stunning performance by Gail Rastorfer, who also plays Jimmy’s mother in act two) and their daughter, Dale ( the adorable Cathlyn Melvin) who is about to turn 18. All appears fine until it is discovered that she has found a broken pocket watch in her father’s closet and asks the shop helper Rowan ( Tyler ross plays this young man as well as young Jimmy in the second act and displays his versatility in handling two different types of young men withgreat ease) to fix this watch. This pocket watch turns out to be the “mortal clock” of her actual birth mother, a woman that she has no memory of. This is where it gets a bit macabre, but in a good way.

It turns out that her clock has been stopped and she is stuck in time, roaming the country as a 17 year old, never growing in age. All this took place when she was giving birth and so she left the baby that she had with Jimmy to be raised by him and his “friend” kate, who he later married and who raised Dale with him. It turns out, that while the baby was being born, Jimmy’s parents both died and not wanting to spoil some of the mystery, I will only tell you that there is a great deal of soul searching for the individuals involved. Dale’s birth mother, Cari Lee is brilliantly played by Joanne Dubach who is the same character in all three acts.

Oh yes, in act three, we come back to the present as it turns out there is a problem with Dale’s “mortal clock” and Jimmy has to discover a way to give her more time as her clock is running down. This is a story of love and one of great sacrifice for someone who is loved dearly. Just what makes a mother a mother is touched on in that while Kate was not Dale’s birth mother, she raised her form infancy, caring for her, protecting her, teaching her to ride a bike and to do normal things. Does that not make her a mother? Are the “tethers” that bind one another together not made of love rather than blood? Wegrzyn explores this in great detail and while there are many funny parts to this wild story, filled with a certain air of  fantasy, we see the people as real and feel for them wanting them to be at peace with their lives . There is a scene in the third act that gets a little blood and guts ( but with a comical edge) that in the long run proves just what real and true love for another person can be.  The music and sound by Barry Bennett adds some magic to the overall production as do the special effects done by specialist Ryan Oliver. Tutterow and Wegrzyn together with the great tech people at Chicago Dramatists have proved the old adage that “good things come in small packages” with this brilliant and compelling production.

“Hickorydickory” will continue at Chicago Dramatists, located at 1105 West Chicago Avenue ( at Grand Ave. and Milwaukee Avenue) through  June 12th with performances as follows:

Thursday,Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.- The play is 2 1/2 hours plus two intermissions, so just sh of three hours in total.

Tickets are a mere $32 and on Thursdays, student tickets are available for $15. For reservations, www.chicagodramatists.org

Public transportation is probably the easiest with the Blue Line stop almost at the door as well as  the Chicago Avenue bus. Parking is available ( limited) and can be checked out by going to www.chicagodramatists.org/parking   

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