Friday October 20th 2017

“Marvin’s Room”

Dysfunctional families are used as plots in many theatrical productions. Of note, Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller were masters of taking us deep into the “bowels” of families with dark secrets. Taking up residence in the very intimate “studio” theater at Circle Theatre in Oak Park is Scott McPherson’s “Marvin’s Room” a story that deals with such a family.Our main characters are Bessie ( a smart portrayal by Amanda Hartley) and her estranged sister Lee ( deftly handled by Elizabeth Morgan). Bessie lives in Florida with her father, Marvin ( who we never see, but hear, behind his closed bedroom door and her aunt Ruth ( Kate Kisner). She is their caretaker and has given up most of her own life in order to tend to their needs. At the start of the play, we find that she is being tested by a doctor ( Eliza Shin) for some problems that they want to check out. What we find out is that she has Leukemia and that her only hope might be a marrow transplant, and so she contacts her sister in hopes that she or either of her two sons might be a match.

Lee’s sons, Hank ( a strong performance by Todd Aiello) is in an institute , thought to be slightly looney and Charlie ( Danny Mulae , who might be just a little to old for this role) have never met their aunt of grandfather and come from a broken home where love doesn’t seem to exist. They all make the trip down to Florida so see what they can do and after arriving and meeting their “family” we begin to see changes in their feeling and attitudes for each other. This is a touching story showing how one person’s strength can be transferred to others as we watch these “strangers” become “family” again. We are unsure of the outcome for Bessie as none of the family members are a match, but we know that during what may come, she is no longer alone.

Directed by Mary C. Redmon on a multi purpose set by Bob Knuth, the story is well told, but the intimacy of the theater should have been taken into account on the set design and direction as there are scenes where because of the boys sleeping on the floor, most of the patrons are unable to see them. The actors, inn some cases, because the theater is small tend to speak in conversational tones instead of projecting to the back row , which is only five rows from the stage, a no-no in theater. Knuth’s lighting filled the stage amply and Kevin Bellie’s sound needs some adjustments- his musical interludes between scenes is strong and powerful , a great addition to the telling of the story. The other cast members in this production are Liliana Mitchell in dual roles who once again needs to play to the back row and Paul Chakrin who does Marvin’s offstage voice in addition to a few others. This is a story that has many comic moments despite the overall story that deals with death and disease, and yet with a great deal of hope; hope for the future of this family that was brought together by sickness, but is somewhat healed from the problems of their pasts.

“Marvin’s Room” will continue through September 30th at Circle Theatre located at 1010 West Madison Street in Oak Park ( just two blocks East of Harlem Avenue) with performances as follows:

Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.                                                                                                                                                               

Tickets are $24-$28 and can be ordered by calling 708-660-9540 or visiting www.circle-theatre.org

There is plenty of free street parking and public transportation will get you to the theater with ease.

For more info on this production, visit www.theatreinchicago.com and go to Review Round-ups- then click on “Marvin’s Room”

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