Recommended ***Fitting into society! This is something that we all think about as we grow older and our kids become adults. In most cases, for most of us, it is easy. We follow the footsteps of our parents and grand parents. But, what about the special situations that exist today? In “Luce”. now in its Midwest Premiere at Next Theatre in Evanston, we meet a young high school student who was adopted from a troubled life in war-torn Africa and adopted by an upper middle class family in any typical suburb in the USA. Luce is bright and as the story opens up, his mother, Amy (a powerful portrayal by Amy J. Carle) is having a meeting with one of his teachers, Harriet (Tyla Abercrombie), who after reading an essay he wrote feared that he was in trouble. She then searched his locker and discovered fireworks ( illegal). Is he up to no good? Is he planning some type of terrorist movement?
When Amy goes home and tells her husband Peter (deftly handled by Coburn Goss) of her meeting and what was found, they begin to think about how well they did as parents. How could their brilliant son, a member of the football team , who is respected by all, be a terrorist? Or even be in trouble? They brought him to this new world when he was seven and had lost every one in his previous life. He had a new life! A solid life! He was, after all, living the American Dream. When they confront Luce (a brilliant character development process by Jerry McKinnon), he begins to feel that the people who gave him this new lease on life do not really know who he is.
There are several scenes involving the student, the teacher and the parents that take us in different directions. The teacher starts to fear the student. The parents begin to feel that their son is not who they thought he was and Luce, himself fears that despite his always being honest , that his parents no longer trust him. There is another character in the play, Stephanie (the lovely Erica Murphy) who has a past with Luce and yet, Amy has never met her or even knew just how involved these teens were in their relationship. In the one scene between Amy and Stephanie , we learn about some of the things that teens do and what caused their relationship to change. We also see that their teacher, Harriet was involved with both.
While this 90 minutes of non-stop action is smoothly directed by Keira Fromm on a set that is very realistic (Courtney O’Neill) with lighting by Sarah Hughey (I had a slight problem with the lighting in the classroom. The glass window wall had a glare off the lights facing the glass causing people on the left side of the audience to not be able to see clearly), I felt that we were really in both their kitchen and the classroom. The Starbucks was just a few stools and two cups of something, so they were fairly real, but the sound of the crowd enjoying their brews seemed fake and took away from what the two actresses were building center stage.
There are a few surprises in this tory that I will not divulge as the suspense is presented to perfection. Does the story end as you might want it to? It will be different for each audience member, I am sure. In fact, depending on your life style and where and how you grew up, you will see this story in a different light. If you grew up in an integrated area, or better yet, home, you might see more than those who grew up in an area where people of color were non-existent. While the title of the play is “Luce” and it is about him, it is more about Amy and her crisis. She could not have a child of her own and so she adopted. She even gave up smoking for him, as she had promised that when she got pregnant she would. Signing the papers to adopt was for her a pregnancy and so she stopped. Knowing her son would face challenges, she wants him to be “super son” and be an over achiever. He is, but can he handle it? And because he is a person of color, can he be guiltless when trouble is found?
This is a tense 90 minutes with some very well played comic moments. There is some mystery and while I felt that the ending left a little something to be desired ( for me), I found this to be a rewarding night of theater and a play worth seeing. “Luce” will continue at The Noyes Cultural Arts Center located at 927 Noyes Street ( just East of Ridge Avenue) in Evanston through November 9th with performances as follows:
Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.
Fridays at 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Sundays at 2 p.m.
Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. on October 18th and 25th as well as November 1st and 8th.
Tickets are $30-$40 and are available at the box office, by phone at 847-475-1875 or online at www.nexttheatre.org
There is parking on the premises and adjacent lot and the Noyes “L” station is just a half block from the theater.
Sundays feature talkbacks after the performance.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Luce”.