Recommended During the holiday season” we are treated to lots of stories that are holiday related in order to get us into the spirit and bring a little joy and happiness to our souls. Full Sky Productions, is presenting a play with songs, “Local Wonders” which will bring that joy to your sould without any mention of the holidays at all. Based on the book,”Local Wonders;Seasons in The Bohemian Alps” written by Ted Kooser, this is his story dealing with middle-age and what happens to us when we come up against the unexpected. Written by Virgina Smith( who also directed the show) and Paul Amandes ( who also wrote the original music and lyrics) this is a warm story dealing with Ted’s life from childhood to adulthood and his dealing with cancer when in his 60’s. Amandes takes on the role of Ted and Kathleen, that of his wife Annie Hills. The only other member of this cast is James Robinson-Parran who handles the keyboards and sound effects. All of the other music is handled by Amandes and Hills ( guitars, banjo, ukulele and harmonica).
Most of the ten songs are directly made up of r. Kooser’s poems. The action, for the most part takes place in Nebraska and when Ted takes us back to his childhood years, Ames,Iowa. For those of you unfamiliar with Kooser, he is a former U.S. Poet Laureate with some wonderful works. We learn that as a child he didn’t really fit in. There is a great reference to this with a book called “Lentil” about a little boy that was an outcast, but because he could play the harmonica, during a welcome home parade while all the other band members were sucking air due to some heavy lemon sucking going on, he becomes a hero- the moral. You can accomplish anything if you can play the harmonica!
As we travel on this journey into Kooser’s life, we learn that once he hit middle age, a time where he should have been relaxing and just live out his years, on a visit to his dentist, it is discovered that he has cancer. During his treatment his entire life changes and while recovering, he finds that the stress is so great, he can no longer write. Faced with boredom, and avoidance of the sun, he walks each morning, sometimes with Kathleen, often alone. During these walks, he thinks about his life and how he became who and what he is. This is a journey down memory lane for this couple as the think about their childhoods, the bitter sweetness of parenthood, the loveliness of their home in Nebraska and the aging process; a journey that I enjoyed tremendously!
This ninety minute ( no intermission) is a wonderful warm and sweet journey that we are allowed to share through some wonderful folk music performed with heart and soul by Amandes and Hills. Hills, by the way is a wonderful musician with a great voice and a lot of acting ability. It was impossible not to fall in love with her portrayal of the character, Kathleen. Amandes, brings a lot of charm to his Ted and together we see the chemistry that these characters shared. Robinson-Parran with his wonderful piano playing fills in all the gaps and of course, he will succeed ( he also pays the harmonica)!
The set by Holly Windingstad, lighting by Douglas Smith and prop design by Zena Paice are the icing on the cake in this solid, heartwarming production that will have you leaving the theater with a small tear in your eye, but a great feeling in your heart. “Local Wonders” will continue at Chicago Dramatists located at 1105 W. Chicago Avenue ( at Milwaukee/Ogden/Chicago intersection) through January 9th with performances as follows:
Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.,Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sundays at 3 and 7 p.m.
to learn more visit www.localwondersmusical.com