Highly Recommended ***** It has been some time since I have walked out of the Victory Gardens Biograph Theater feeling the emotions that I did tonight. Back in the day, it was almost commonplace to know that whatever they presented would be wonderful. I recall some of the older board members, such as Mr. Krause and George Beslow and the adoration they had for the little theater on Lincoln Avenue that “could” (as they put it). After making its move from the old building (now The Greenhouse) to the Biograph, they had some sputtering moments and some of the plays selected were not what the subscribers were expecting, but, it looks as if they may have found their footing. Their current production, “Roz and Ray”, in its World Premiere is a 90 minute, two person story about an ambitious doctor who along with the father of her patients, fight for their lives with everything they have inside themselves.
Playwright Karen Hartman takes us on a journey between the years of 1976-1987 and one special day in 1991. Think back in time and you will recall that this was the time where the AIDS epidemic hit the news and the public was fearful of what might be happening to our world. Directed by Artistic Director Chay Yew on a set designed by Tim Mackabee where we see used and abused hospital furniture/equipment, all white, piled as a backdrop. This is not a play where any special costumes are designed, props (Alec Long) are just things and the lights (Diane D. Fairchild) are only for mood setting as is the sound (the original music by Christopher Kriz does have some meaning). It is the two actors who truly make this story take one’s breath away!
The doctor, Roz (handled with the care and delicacy one always expects from Mary Beth Fisher) is a hematologist. The patients are twin boys, who we never see, but find ourselves imagining from time to time, who suffer from hemophilia ( a blood clotting deficiency). Their father, Ray (an amazing character developed by James Vincent Meredith, who as always is spellbinding onstage), who is a single parent , has found Dr. Roz and her so-called “miracle drug”. He has had to put his sons through countless tests and transfusions , so finding Dr. Roz is the anser to his dreams. She is their savior! Or is she?
This story takes us deep into their lives, and through the words of Miss Hartman we learn how the love and sacrifices that people make can be both good and bad. In order not to give out any of the story-line, I will tell you that they bind. In fact, they are so dedicated to saving these twins that their lives become all-consumed with this miracle. They fall in love, or perhaps it is just a dependency on each other. But as we know, there was no real “cure” and while drug companies did have many so-called answers, the budgets did not allow to keep on testing and many of the so-called “miracle” and “experimental” drugs were pulled off the market and sent to other countries who did not have government controls in place. The bottom line for the drug companies was profits. Isn’t it always?
This story, based on actual events that were happening in our world during this period is one that hits deep. Those of us who were around during this period recall the news stories about HIV and AIDS. “Roz and Ray” tackles the inner stories, the ones that were masked from the public, and looks at medical ethics, as well as how the pharmacy manufacturers handled the situations. It also looks at how one can love their children to the point that they will sacrifice all that they have to ensure that the child, or in this case, children, have what they need and deserve. A “brilliant” story, sharply directed and superbly acted. I know that the experience will be special, and while there are many surprises in the story, each one makes sense when you see the entire production.
If you see one play in the next few weeks, make it “Roz and Ray”, which will continue at The Biograph- Victory Gardens Theatre thru December 11th with performances as follows:
Wednesdays 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays 7:30 p.m.
Fridays 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Sundays 3 p.m.
Tickets range from $15-$60 and can be purchased by calling the box office at 773-871-3000 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The box office is located at the theater 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue ( valet parking is available and metered street parking).
There are many special performances: After each performance there is an AFTERWORDS discussion and you can also find the accessible schedule at www.victorygardens.org
Don’t forget WORLD AIDS DAY is December 1st-
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Roz and Ray”!