One of the incredible things about the Chicago “theater scene” is that we are offered all types of theater. New plays, prior to Broadway, have become something that we take for granted, and now, one of our smaller companies is participating in a “National New Play Network” presenting what they call a Rolling World Premiere of a new work by Lauren Yee, “In A Word”. A brief explanation of what this means is that this play, which is now in its final home on the “Rolling” has been produced in other cities along its way to Strawdog Theatre Company, its final resting spot for the now completely finished play. In fact, the playwright was here prior to opening at their space located at 3829 N. Broadway, to make some final changes and tweak where it should be tweaked.
The story is one that will make you smile and at the same time be concerned. It is about a couple, Fiona ( superbly brought to life by Mary Winn Heider) and Guy (deftly handled by John Ferrick), who adopted a son from a friend of a friend, a young woman who could not keep this boy. The boy is what one might term a “problem child”. There is some mystery involved in the telling of this story and I will not give away any of the secrets that come out during this 80 minutes of story-telling. This is a smoothly directed work by Jess McLeod, that becomes quite physical at times. In particular between Ms Heider and her son (played to perfection by Gabe Franken) who also plays other roles, but his true power is playing a 7- year -old boy although he appears to be an adult. This is powerful acting!
When the story begins, it has been two years since their son Tristan has vanished. During our 80 minutes of theater, we watch the unfolding of the story and history of this couple and their “son” through flashbacks. There are some alarming bits of action from the very start that may startle you, but understand that they are important to the overall story that we witness. How does “loss” affect a mother, even an adoptive one?. There is also some denial involved in this story, both from the father and mother. This piece has elements of tragedy and hope! One can see that even heartbreak can reap hope from the words that Yee has put to the page.
Sarah JHP Watkins has designed a set that allows the viewers to see the action that takes place primarily in the living room of their home, but has the functionality of being a police station, a car, a school-room and more. The lighting by John Kelly keeps our focus and Heath Hays’ sound makes every word and sound clear. This is a very strong props production so a solid bravo to Jamie Karas! Izumi Inaba’s costumes are very flexible, in particular, those for Franken, who plays a multitude of roles.
This is not a play that everyone will love! If you have friends or family with a child that is “different” or has mental problems, this may be a difficult one to watch, although it does make a strong effort in educating the audience while it entertains, and isn’t that what theater should do? “In A Word” will continue at The Strawdog Theater, 3829 N. Broadway , second floor, thru March 19th with performances as follows:
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 8 p.m.
Sundays 4 p.m.
SPECIAL: Monday February 22nd at 8 p.m.
FULLY ACCESSIBLE performance at Victory Gardens on Thursday, March 3rd at 8 p.m.
Tickets are $28 (RUSH tickets and Senior and Student rates are also available). To order tickets call Ovation Tix at 1-866-811-4111 or visit www.strawdog.org
Fully Accessible at 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue will have a touch tour at 6:45 p.m. and there is an audio description and open captioning, making theater available to all.
Parking on Broadway near Sheridan is fairly easy most nights. Some spaces are metered, some not, so please, read the signs.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “In A Word”
Hats off to this organization for trying new innovations for its audiences. Soon we will have information on where this company will hang its hat when the building they are housed in is gone!