Saturday December 16th 2017

“I Saw My Neighbor on the Train and I Didn’t Even Smile”

Highly Recommended **** Many of you are used to seeing glowing reviews from the productions at Redtwist Theatre, so this will not be a surprise. They just keep finding new plays to produce that are different to compliment their old standards. They also use their little “storefront theater” located in the heart of the Edgewater community to its full advantage. Their current production, in its Chicago premiere has a strange title, that truly has very little to do with the play, “I Saw My Neighbor on the Train and I Didn’t Even Smile”. Catchy, right? For the rest of this review, I will call this play “Train” (to save some space).

“Train” is written by Suzanne Heathcote and takes place in Chicago. The basic story is about a very dysfunctional family and in particular the three women in this family. They are generational: Grandmother, Daphne (Kathleen Ruhl plays Grandma, and it is as if this role was written with her in mind. She is perfect), Daughter,Rebecca ( the always reliable Jacqueling Grandt who is as lovely as ever) and  Granddaughter, Sadie ( newcomer Emma Maltby, who I am positive will be a name in Chicago theater for years to come).

The three women , who are thrown together due to circumstances of life, are forced to make lifestyle changes that are uncomfortable for them and as it turns out, for all of those that encounter them. The story starts out with us in a diner (Arnel Sancianco has designed a multi-task set that can be converted with as little as a change of tablecloth ) where Rebecca is meeting with her brother Jamie ( Adam Bitterman in a strong character portrayal that proves there are no small parts- he is dynamic). It seems that he is about to get re-married and at the same time, his ex is shipping their daughter from California to Chicago to be under his care. He needs his sister Rebecca’s aid an assistance to make it through this ordeal as his fiancée is unhappy with his daughter (who by the way, is 15 and has a porn film all over the Internet).

Rebecca, who recently had to put her dog “down” has no real life and doesn’t want this responsibility, but takes it on to assist her brother. Their mother, Daphne is someone they do not communicate well with, but she is in and out of Rebecca’s apartment daily to watch TV ( she won’t buy cable) and during this 100 minutes of story-telling , we learn deep truths as to why this family is so estranged. The majority of the play revolves around these three women, who are kind of thrown together ,making  adjustments to each situation they are placed in. As we spend time with them we learn more about why they do what they do and they each learn a little from each other.

While there are many ups and downs during their adjustment period, the men in their lives change them to understand more about their lives and of those that surround them. For example, dateless  Rebecca is taught how to use the Internet to meet men , does meet one, who as it turns out is not a nice man and what takes place is not good.  Paul is played by John Blick. There is another player, Joshua Servantez, who plays Eric, a student that befriends Sadie and helps her to see herself in a new light. As I said, the play is about the women ,and the men are used to open our eyes and ears to the souls of each character. Director Erin Murray uses this tiny space to full advantage making sure that despite being five feet from the action, the sight lines for all 34 seats is clear. Not an easy task.

The path that Heathcote takes to get us to her ending, which by the way can be called “happy” is short and sweet, but also bittersweet. What we do find is that three unhappy women who are living day-by-day with no expectations of happiness find that they have relatives who are more than relatives, they are FAMILY and through their relationships can find the missing ingredient of their lives, love and friendship ,which at the very end can lead to happiness.

“Train” will continue at Redtwist located at 1044 Bryn Mawr in Chicago through  December 18th with performances as follows:

Thursdays  7:30 p.m.

Fridays  7:30 p.m.

Saturdays  7:30 p.m.

Sundays  3 p.m.

NO PERFORMANCE on THANKSGIVING

Understudy performance on Tuesday, December 12th and closing performance on Monday, December 18th at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets range from $35- $40 ( $5 discounts for seniors and students) and can be reserved by calling 773-728-7529 or online at www.redtwist.org

This is a very intimate space ( 34 seats) so I suggest you call in right away.

Parking is fairly easy in the area with meters ( they are free on Sunday) and public transportation is very easy.

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “I Saw My Neighbor on the Train and I Didn’t Even Smile”.

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