The North Shore is the home of many beautiful people and 35 years ago was the home of an award winning film, “Ordinary People”. The film was shot in Lake Forest, Highland Park and surrounding areas. In fact, as part of the special stage adaptation (by Nancy Gilsenen) the folks at Citadel Theatre have made special Sundays part of the run. This event is a bus tour of the locations that were utilized during Robert Redford’s directorial debut. Tours are an additional cost and last a few hours leading up to the performance of this very special production, smoothly directed by Scott Phelps. Citadel’s stage area is very intimate , and despite it being enlarged to accommodate the upcoming musical productions of their 15th season, it is still a venue that puts the audience right into the action. In fact, the only true negative to this otherwise solid production is that the actors , no matter the change of season, wore the same outfits. A simple item, but one that was very noticed. The Judith Guest book and its story is still intact and while the movie has the glitz and the stars, the “live” performance brings a closer look to those who view it.
Yeaji Kim has used the stage to its fullest, offering us a hall locker at the Lake Forest High School, the Jarrett residence and the office of Dr. Berger, the Psychiatrist that helps to unveil the secrets that entangle the lives of the Jarrett family. His set is very realistic, although smaller in scale than one would anticipate in Lake Forest, but with the help of some beautiful video projections which she also designed using the photographs of Perry Lentine. Bob Boxer did the sound, and it may be time for Citadel to look at doing some microphones to enable the audience to grasp every word of the story. Young actors feel that they no longer must project “to the back row”- they should and must!. The story line needs all the words that the playwright wrote, not just some. The music (Robert Nordling consulted on) works well with the direction and is quite fitting to help us through the moods that are written into this story.
For those of you unaware of the story, perhaps having not the film, it is a deep story about a family living with depression. The story tackles the meaning of “depression”- how it works! Why it happens! How one can handle it! It even takes us down the path of not wanting to face what it does or even how not to face handling it. In this case, a happy well adjusted family, living on top of the world in a North Shore home, making a nice living, with two teen-age sons that are popular and well liked, falls apart when the older son, Buck dies in an accident. The younger son Conrad (a powerful performance by Matt Ronzani), who was very close to his brother, attempts to kill himself over the loss of his brother and while he has recovered and is back home, we are still not sure that he has gotten over what brought him to where he was.
The parents, attorney Cal (deftly handled by Jeff Gamlin) and Beth ( ably played by Julie Stevens) have their own devils to deal with over the ordeal, and we watch them drift apart because of the situation that has made their lives so very different than before. Part of Citadel’s desire to bring this story to their stage is the news and headlines about suicide among young people, who are often confused and depressed and as I mentioned in last week’s “Nearly Normal” in Skokie, bi-polar. Bringing this to light and making people more aware can save lives, and if just one life is saved because someone was able to recognize the symptoms, then they have done the proper thing. Yes, this play and this family face a lot of doom and sadness, but thanks to opening up as Conrad does with Dr. Berger (well under-played by Chuck Quinn III), we see the the “light at the end of the tunnel” for him and his dad. This show is “nearly normal”, as Conrad learns to feel Good instead of just feeling safe, and that members of the Jarrett family learn that they need not take blame for the actions of others. A strong message for each of us.
I will not tell you the ending of this story, as the impact is much greater as you see it unfold before you. Yes, even the doom works. The high school friends involved with Conrad are strongly created by Chuck Quinn IV as Stillman, Julia Macmillan as Jeanine, the new girl in town and Conrad’s “love interest”, Joe (Chris Westerbrook), his best friend since grade school and Danielle Mohrback as Karen, a girl who also has some problems and through her eyes, and actions opens Conrad’s eyes. The other player in the script is the swimming coach, Salan (Andy Clifton). The play runs approx. 2 hours and 10 minutes with an intermission. Opening night was a stormy ,rainy one and the actual time on a clear night might be closer to the two hour mark.
Thursdays 7:30 p.m.
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 8 p.m.
Sundays 3 p.m.
Tickets (all reserved seats) range from $35 to $37.50 (a bargain for theater of this quality) and can be reserved by calling 847-735-8554 or online at www.CitadelTheatre.org. Students and seniors-discounts available
The theater is located at 300 S. Waukegan Road in Lake Forest. This is just south of Route 60 and Route 43/Waukegan Road is just West of Route 41. Lots of free parking.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Ordinary People”
Hera again, let me remind you of the importance of awareness. Please take a close look at www.rebeccasdream.org. This is an organization that was founded for the sole purpose of education the public about this problem. Rebecca Lynn Cutler, was a 30 year old journalist who succumbed to depression and Bi-polar disorder and took her own life. This is a problem that hits people of all ages, races, religions and genders.