I thought at first that “One Came Home” was a curious choice for Lifeline Theatre’s regular season. I hadn’t read Amy Timberlake’s coming-of-age novel won both the Newberry Medal and the Edgar Award for Best Juvenile; the operative word being juvenile. Now that I’ve seen Jessica Wright Buha’s powerful adaptation, I’m definitely going to read the novel. I can’t make a higher recommendation! I give “One Came Home” 4 Spotlights.
“One Came Home” is, at its heart, a story about love. A 13 year-old tomboy, Georgie Burkhardt (Ashley Darger) adores her older sister, Agatha (Amanda Jane Long). The girls live with their Mother (Heather Currie) and Grandfather Bolte (Errol McLendon) in Placid, Wisconsin. Georgie is a force of nature (reminiscent of “True Grit”); Agatha is no slouch in the determination department either.
Placid is a rather placid place, except during the annual passenger pigeon migration – represented by fluttery puppets – when the town is invaded by “pigeoneers”. Georgie, who has perfect aim, loves shooting pigeons with her Springfield single shot rifle.
Billy (Jeff Kurysz), who’s leaving Placid to homestead in Minnesota, and Mr. Olmstead (Dan Granata), an educated man, are both courting Amanda, who doesn’t want either of them. Agatha desperately wants to go to the university in Madison. Grandfather forbids it, saying there’s no need for her to be educated, she’d be better off married.
Georgie, who saw Agatha kissing Billy, told Mr. Olmstead, infuriating Agatha, who ran away from home, hitching a ride with a group of pigeoneers. Although they searched, no one can find a trace of Agatha. When an unidentifiable body of a woman is found in another town, the Sheriff (Patrick Blashill) suspects it might be Agatha. Ma recognizes the blue ball gown, so the body is mourned and buried as her sister.
Georgie, who refuses to believe that Agatha is dead, is bound and determined to find her sister. She tries to blackmail Billy into renting her a horse. Instead, he goes with her on her search. Georgie is intrepid in the face of various hardships and the sinister Garrows.
Prairie grasses and weeds with a moveable filigreed hanging panel is the backdrop for multiple locations. A couple of long wooden boxes became benches, coffins and store counters. In an ingenious use of the mundane, a pair of ladders became horses.
“One Came Home” runs through April 5th at Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood Ave., Chicago. Although the novel is recommended for grades 9 through 12, the Lifeline production is suitable for all ages. Performances are Thursday and Friday at 7:30 pm; Saturday at 4:00 and 8:00; and Sunday at 4:00. Running time is 2 hours, 10 minutes with an intermission. Tickets are $40, $30 for seniors. Metered street parking is available; free on Sundays. Free parking, with shuttle service to the theater, is available in Lifeline’s remote lot. FYI (773) 761-4477 or www.lifelinetheatre.com
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “One Came Home”