Rivendell Theatre Ensemble is one of our “storefront”/ “black-box” theaters where every time you enter, you are surprised to see where the stage is and where the seating is arranged. That is part of the adventure of our smaller companies. Rivendell is also dedicated in producing new works with “women at the core” and such is their latest entry, a World Premiere, written by Chicago playwright Laura Jacqmin, “look, we are breathing”.
This is a tight little play, roughly 80 minutes in length dealing with a high school student, an athlete, who dies in an auto accident. We are asked, along with his mother, one of his concerned teachers and a girl that he “hooked-up” with, to mourn his early passing and to take a look at his life. Was he all that he might have been? Did his early death change the paths of those who are mourning him now (the characters we meet and a few that we only hear about)?
The question arises- what if Mike was not a super athlete? What is he was not a popular guy? what if he did not have the potential that everyone thought he had? In fact, what if he had been the total opposite of the young man we watch during this drama? Jacqmin takes a deep and hard look at how this young man’s early death affected the others in his life and the entire story deals with flashbacks depicting the events that bring us to this tragic result. By the way, read the paper on most days, and you might just see a story that is very close to this one. How do young people face the daily challenge of learning the fate of others and do they have their own fears due to this?
Directed by Megan Shuchman, who keeps our focus on each of the four extremely talented actors, we are caught in the story from the very start to the very finish. Mike (ably handled by Brendan Meyer) is a jock who is loved and respected by his peers, but feels that the world is his oyster and that whatever he wants, he is entitled to. I am sure if you think back to high school, you will recall that particular guy in your class! Caylee (the lovely Brenann Stacker) is that “plain Jane” that wants to be loved and the girl that is seen with the sports star.
Alice (A powerful performance by Tara Mallen) is Mike’s mother, who tries her best to have him toe the line and Leticia ( deftly handled by Lily Mojekwu) is his teacher; the one who truly wants to see him on the right path. The three women in Mike’s life are forced to look at themselves and their roles in what took place on that fateful night. While we know that he was warned (at least three times) not to drive after drinking, we also see that despite the warnings, it was his choice to take the wheel. Who was at fault? I am not so sure that Ms Jacqmin was laying fault at anyone’s feet. I think, rather, that she was asking us, each and everyone of us to look deep into our hearts and souls when it comes to those around us who could easily be faced with a situation such as this.
This was one of those plays that could have easily been a FIVE STAR, but fell short with the ending. After a wonderful moment when Mom, Alice (Ms Mallen knocks it out of the park as the grieving mother, who learns things about Mike and herself), we have a final scene about “Look, we are breathing” which would have had a greater impact with only three of the actors being used…you can guess which ones.
“Look, we are breathing” will continue at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble located at 5779 N. Ridge Ave. in Chicago ( just South of Senn High School) thru May 16th with performances as follows:
Wednesdays 8 p.m.
Thursdays 8 p.m.
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 4 p.m.
Saturdays 8 p.m.
Tickets range from $32- $35 with discounts for students, seniors and active military
There are also five seats for each performance designated as “pay what you can” By the way, that is 10% of the total seats- this is very intimate theater.
To order your opportunity to see this production, call the theater at 773-334-7728 or visit www.RivendellTheatre.org
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Look, we are breathing”- all photos by Michael Brosilow