Saturday June 24th 2017

“Hunger”

I must preface my remarks by saying that I love Lifeline Theatre and for the most part, the literary adaptations they do transform to their intimate stage area with great results. Now in their 29th season, a lot of productions have been presented in Rogers park and because of this bright troupe, the Rogers Park neighborhood has been transformed into a cultural arts wonderland. This being said, their current production, “Hunger”, an adaptation of Elise Blackwell’s powerful World War Two novel by Chris Hainsworth, appeared to have some holes in the story. The story takes place during the 900 days siege of Leningrad. As the Nazis take over , many of those in power or high standing are taken away, some never to be seen again and hunger for the life they used to have as well as food takes over.

Our main characters are those who work in the botany labs trying to produce seeds that will allow food to be grown in their frigid climate for generations. Ilya ( a solid performance by John Henry Roberts), one of the botanists, is charged with protecting some of these valuable seeds along with his co-workers who pledge they will make sure they are protected. As the siege continues, some of his co-workers are taken away, food becomes more scarce and it becomes a matter of survival for these technicians. The quaestion becomes which is more important, their mission or their survival?

Ilya’s wife,Alena ( marvelously played by Kendra Thulin), gives in to the torments of war when two of their closest friends are taken away leaving their child alone. Alena has lost a child in birth, only to be told that she will never be able to have a child of her own, but based on the adaptation, this is not clear to us until the use of flashbacks as she becomes very ill. There are many flashbacks and although director Robert Kauziaric works hard to bring it all together, I have the feeling that the obstacles he faces by the script make it seem more complicated than it might be in the novel. I for one plan to read the original just to see how it plays out as written by Blackwell ( who by the way, will be at the theater on March 3rd at 4 p.m. for a talkback and book signing).

Jessica Kuehnau’s set makes terrific use of the small theater space with levels and moveable walls, but even that had some confusing moments. Kevin D.Gawley does some wonderful lighting effects allowing us to feel the bombs bursting and Andrew Hansen’s sound and original music ( hauntingly beautiful music) along with Jesse Gaffney’s props are all solid contributions to the over all picture that Kauzlaric tries to paint. The other cast members, many of which play multiple parts are all well cast;Dan Granats,Peter Greenberg, Katie McLean Hainsworth, Jenifer Tyler and Christopher M. Walsh.

As a special note, as stated in the program, while this story is based on an actual event and Nikolai Vavilov and Trofim Lysenko were actual people, Ms Blackwell has taken poetic license in her story. Therefore, if you would like more facts about the actual events, it is suggested you visit the library or a bookstore for a copy of”The 900 Days:The Siege of Leningrad” by Harrison Salisbury or Anna Reid’s “Leningrad:The Epic Siege of World War II,1941-1944”.

“Hunger” will continue at Lifeline Theatre located at 6912 N. Glenwood through March 25th with perofrmances as follows:

Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m.,Saturdays at 4 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m.  (running time 2 1/2 hours with one intermission)

Tickets are $32 for Thursdays and Fridays and $35 for Saturdays and Sundays. Seniors for Thursday and Friday, $27-Students $20 and RUSH tickets ( subject to availability are $20, 1/2 hour prior to curtain).

To order tickets call 773-761-4477 or visit www.lifelinetheatre.com

Street parking is available in the neighborhood and free parking at the corner of Morse and Ravenswood with free shuttle to and from the theater. The CTA also makes for easy access.

 

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