This is one that is difficult to rate. Lifeline Theatre does a great job of adapting novels to stage, but they have selected a story that is pretty well known in “Midnight Cowboy”. Most of us, at least those of my generation, are familiar with the film that tells the story. The book written by James Leo Herlihy was made into this Award-Winning film starring Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman, who were on their way to becoming stars. This was back in the mid-1960’s. I have heard that other theater companies have attempted to do likewise but I for one have never seen any stage rendition of this film/book until Chris Hainsworth’s World Premiere that is now on the stage at Lifeline Theatre in Rogers Park. The actors would be rated higher. The show itself just did not do it for me!
For those of you who might be unfamiliar with the story, it is about a young man, Joe Buck (deftly handled by Zach Livingston). Joe is a lonely young man who has been shoved from family member to family member during his youth. Never finding an identity to associate himself with and not having had much love in his youth, he is searching for the missing feelings that he has never had. Love is not yet in the picture. Lust however is what he feels is his quest. While he appears to be the rugged he-man type, this is all a mask for a little boy’s mentality searching for his own identity. He heads for New York City to find himself. To earn money, he becomes a hustler and along the way, this lost soul finds another lost soul, one Enrico Rizzo (who he calls “Ratso”, played to perfection by Adam Marcantoni). One of the highlights of this production was these two actors as they build the relationship that is almost as magical as the one in the film.To clarify. a “Street Hustler” sells sex to either male or female, so judge for yourself if this content is right for your family.
The cast that brings the many characters to life in this ensemble piece are strong. Patrick Blashill, Megan DeLay (a dynamite performer, but it seemed that her characters were all alike making it hard to determine who she was at any given time), Micah Kronlokken, Anne Marie Lewis, Gregory Madden, Jack Miggins, and Heather Smith. The other problem with this casting was having Mr. Marcantoni play two additional roles. It confused some of the audience members and may have taken away from his solid interpretation of “Ratso”.
Directed by Christopher M. Walsh, on a busy set designed by Joe Schermoly, we can see just how small the stage area of Lifeline is. The space is far smaller than I thought it was as this adaptation is filled with flashbacks taking us back to Texas and New Mexico as well as New York, but there were many times that I was not sure just where we were. The “preacher man” played by Madden seems to come in and out in this version. It has been many years since I saw the movie, but I recall him only being in one major scene. In the film version, he was easier to understand. The bus scene was hard to follow, but the two actors (Marcantoni and Livingston) showed their depth in this, the final segment of the two -hour story.
These are two lost souls, each trying to find some happiness and peace in their lives. They are both alone, and in need of someone to call a real friend, but it is not just these men that are broken and headed for fates that they don’t deserve. It seems that every character is somewhat in the same position. They are all victims of either their own breaks or circumstances that life has dealt them. Often, they say, we make our own breaks. For some this is fact. For others, not so as they cannot control those around them. One of the lines in the play is “There is no beatitude for the lonesome”. This is true and fits every character to a tee! They are all trying to connect, to anyone and anything. While this is not one of the best productions that this company has brought to their Rogers park home, their effort is valiant and I applaud them for trying. Perhaps, a re-write with less flashbacks, or at least easier to follow ones would be possible ( for the next time out).
On the tech side, I congratulate Matt Engle for some great fight sequences, Sarah Espinoza for her sound, Ryan McCain (props), Rachel Sypniewski (costumes) and Brandon Wardell (lighting). “Midnight Cowboy” will continue at Lifeline Theatre located at 6912 N. Glenwood Avenue, through April 12th with performances as follows:
Fridays 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays 4 and 8 p.m.
Sundays 4 p.m.
Tickets are $40 ($30 for Seniors, $20 for students and RUSH). They can be ordered by calling 773-761-4477 or online at www.lifelinetheatre.com
Parking is available on the streets of the area, some metered, some not or at the FREE lot located at the Northeast corner of Morse and Ravenswood where a free shuttle service will bring you to the theater and back after the show.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Midnight Cowboy”