Highly Recommended**** Anyone familiar with Timeline Theatre Company knows of their dedication to bringing history to their stage, serving as a teaching aid for our students and for many of their parents, as well. While the classroom is the learning place, the theater transforms what is on the written page to something happening right before our eyes, making it far more real to us than what we read. Timeline’s newest production is in fact a Chicago premiere of a musical version of “Juno”, based on the play, “Juno and the Paycock” by Sean O’Casey. As you might guess from te original, this is an Irish themed story that takes place in Ireland during the Irish Civil War of 1922. This version has a book by Joseph Stein with music and lyrics by Marc Blitzstein and takes us back to a time when the country was at war and very poor. The people had to deal with the war, politics and civil unrest.
Again, if you know Timeline Theatre, you know that musicals are not their forte ( this is the second- “Fiorello” being the first and it was an award winning production for them, as I am sure this one will be), and director Nick Bowling has made it his business to find actors who sing to bring this story to life. In the lead role, as Juno Boyle, the matriarch of the family we have the strongly talented Marya Grandy. Her husband, the good for nothing scoundrel who she loves dearly is played to perfection by Ron Rains ( who has been seen at The Goodman in “A Christmas Carol” many times as Bob Cratchitt, and while he is not really a singer, he is a powerful actor who can carry a tune). Their daughter, Mary is played by the lovely Emily Glick who has a voice like an angel and their son, Jimmy by Jonny Stein. This is the Boyle family and as we meet their neighbors and drinking buddies, we begin to feel the kinship of the neighborhood during a very stressful time.
Mary is loved, or perhaps the best description is adored by Jerry Devine ( deftly handled by Jordan Brown), but as the story goes on, we meet a young man, Charlie Benthan who has come to town to announce a death in the family and an inheritance for the Boyle family that will change their lives. Charlie, ( another strong performance by Peter Oyloe, who has made his mark since arriving on the Chicago scene, in his first Timeline production) and Mary begin a relationship that appears to be the perfect match. As we all know, what we see is not always what we get and in several instances during this two hours plus of wonderful story-telling and very Irish music, we learn that this is very true.
What this play does is allow us to see how people can survive despite the twists and turns that life brings to them. Bowling is a story teller himself, so it is normal that his direction would keep the story moving so that we the audience nvere drift off or lose interest in these characters.I would never divulge what transpires during the show except to tell you that it is not a happy ending for all the people in the story, and yet it does allow for endings that make sense for the characters that we have met and learned to love. The songs are very involved in the telling of the story and the musicians conducted by Elizabeth Doran, who is also the co-musical director with Doug Peck) and the choreography by Katie Spelman truly add to the beauty of the production. Timeline is a special space, a box that can be set up in many ways, so the set(John Culbert) is a very multi-use one that allows for us to be in the house, at a pub, in the park and many more with just a change of a piece of furniture, The costumes ( Alex Wren Meadows), lighting ( Keith Parham) and props (Emily Guthrie) all help to complete the picture that is the visual to the words and music we hear. Chicago has a strong Irish heritage and population so it is fitting that the theaters in the area continue to keep the stories and traditions alive and well as they teach us a bit of history.
“Juno” will continue at Timeline Theatre located at 615 West Wellington ( just west of Broadway) through July 27th with performances as follows:
Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.
Fridays at 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 4 and 8 p.m.
Sundays at 2 p.m.
Tickets range from $35-$48 and are available at 773-281-TIME)8463) or online at www.timelinetheatre.com
No performance on 6/29
Post show discussions on Sundays
Student discounts with valid ID
discounted parking is available at LAZ parking, 3012 N. Broadway as well as The Broadway Center 2846 N. Broadway and at The Century Mall, 2856 N. Clark Street. Bring your parking ticket with you for validation.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Juno”