Monday December 11th 2017

“Man From Nebraska”

It is amazing what can be done by our smaller theater companies, in limited space. In particular, the storefronts, who often have areas that are no larger than my living room. Redtwist truly impressed me with the set and the moving pieces in their current production of Tracy Letts’ “Man From Nebraska”. This is one of Letts’ first plays having premiered almost ten years ago at Steppenwolf and is a thought provoking drama set in Omaha Nebraska, dealing with a man mid-life crisis. Directed by Andrew Jessop,  with a cast that truly understands Letts, this is an emotional story about a man losing faith. Ken Carpenter ( a dynamic and strong performance  by Chuck Spencer) appears to be a happily married man, with two children, one in college and the other, Ashley ( deftly handled Julie Dahlinger) who works with him and has her own family, a loving wife ( the always reliable Jan Ellen Graves) and a mother (Marssie Mencotti) who is in a nursing home, when he announces he has lost faith in God and needs to explore his life. The start of the play is very slow as we watch the changes come over him during his very routing life. When in the middle of the night, he explodes and makes clear his feelings, his wife, Nancy, and his pastor ( Michael Sherwin) tell him that perhaps a little time away will allow him to get through this.

Ken flies off to London and his journey of discovery and we watch him meet a divorcee who although appealing ( the lovely  Jane deLaubenfels) is not his cup of tea, and certainly not the answers he is seeking. The bartender in his hotel, Tamyra (   solidly played by Adrian Snow) becomes his escape into the underbelly London introducing him to new experiences and her “flatmate, Harry ( Andrew J. Pond in one of his better performances), a sculpture, who teaches him to express himself through his own art. While Ken is in London, learning about his inner-self, Nancy sits at home, knitting and watching television and trying to get through the pain she is feeling as well as the fear that he may never come back. Her daughter fights with her, her pastor tries to get her more involved with the church and his father ( Sam Perry), but her love, it appears is for Ken. She does the visits to his mother, but in the end, when Ken’s mother passes away, he comes home, leaving behind the life of the “free spirit” that he had there.

At the funeral, Ken and Nancy have an awkward moment and as they drive back to the home that was theirs, Ken expresses that he loves Nancy and wants only to be with her. Nancy jumps from the car and asks him the important question-“Have you regained your faith?”, which it seems he cannot answer to her satisfaction, but falls to his knees and begs her to take him back, even knowing that his faith is not yet restored. She puts her hand to his cheek and the lights dim out, leaving us the audience to question if they will indeed  ever be a family again! This is a true “think piece”. One that allows us to imagine what could happen to these characters, a brilliant work by a brilliant playwright and a production that Redtwist can be proud of, from beginning to end!

The set by Stephen H. Carmody is first class usage of a small space, with the assistance of some cleverly designed roll on and off pieces. Christopher Burpee’s lighting had just the right touch for setting mood and tone and Emily Guthrie’s props are perfect. The music by Christopher Kriz adds to the perfection of this large production in a small space and I for one applaud Redtwist for taking on a major show like this in their space. Their Mission Statement is “to do white hot drama, in a tiny black box, with a little red twist” and that is just what they have done with this production!

“Man From Nebraska” will continue at Redtwist located at  1044 W. Bryn Mawr through April 24th with performances:

Thursday,Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m.

Tickets range from $25-$30 ( seniors and student discount of $5) and are available by calling 773-728-7529 or reserve@redtwist.org

To learn more about Red twist, isit www.redtwist.org

Parking is a bit of a problem as it is mostly metered, but they are 3 hour meters in the evning an dthe running time of this production is around two. The Red Line Bryn Mawr station is a block from the theater, so that may be the best way to get there, but I suggest, you do get there!

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