Many of us know of people with what is known as Alzheimer’s disease. Those experiences, for the most part, are with older people- parents, grandparents or perhaps a great aunt or uncle ( depending on your age). But what we know is very little and how would we handle it if it happened to someone in our lives who was younger, someone who is active ? In Lookingglass Theatre’s current production, “Still Alice” adapted by and directed by Christine Mary Dunford, based on the novel by Lisa Genova, we get an in depth look at the life of Alice Howland, a professor who is at the peak of her career. She lives with her husband John ( Deftly handled by Christopher Donahue) also a professor and for the most part, appear to have a wonderful life. They have a son ( Cliff Chamberlain in another solid performance), doing well in his career and marriage and a daughter,Lydia ( a powerful performance by Joanne Dubach) who wants nothing more than to be an actress and is in LA. They appear to be the above normal, American family. But Alice ( an amazing portrayal by Eva Barr) is having memory problems. Her work is studying the human brain and here she is battling with memory lapses and confusion. This play is the book brought to life, treating this problem with compassion and humanity. There are even some light moments as Alice and Herself ( playing the role this afternoon was Martie Sanders, who was astounding), a sort of alter-ego that represents Alice’s mind during these trying times. This is a major part of the story-telling and Ms Sanders proved that the audience never has to fear the “understudy” or “Standby” going on in place of the regular performer. You will get the same tight quality with the actor who does the performance.
In another role, in today’s performance Thomas J. Cox took on the role of Dr. Davis and Dan. He also was perfect!Another Doctor is played by Tracy Walsh and while these doctors roles are not major ones, they are as important to the story as any other. Often audiences forget that the play is only as strong as all of its parts. The adaptation, direction, set ( a fairly simple open set (John Musial), lighting (Mike Durst) special effects/projections ( Mike Tutaj), sound (Rick Sims),costumes (Alison Siple) and props (Maria Defabo- all of these must work together so that we, the audience can concentrate on the story we are being told. We need to focus on how Alice and her family react to what is taking place and how they all deal with it- what sacrifices they are willing to make. Even, when caught in the early stages, this is not a disease that has a “cure”. FYI- the character of Herself is not in the novel, but rather a special way to present a narrator to move the story in the proper direction. Instead of a narrative telling us what is happening, Herself does that as part of what Alice may be thinking and as her inner thoughts expressing what is going on at the moment.
I guess I was troubled with the kitchen being rearranged at times by Herself, but as I drove to my next play, it dawned on me that this may be to symbolize the way that Alice’s mixed up life appears to her. The production, as a whole is an experience that will make you think- about the play itself, about someone in your family or circle that you fear may be going through this or even your own possibility or probability for this disease to effect your years to come.
“Still Alice” will continue at Lookingglass Theatre locate din the Historic Water Tower Works, 821 N. Michigan Avenue ( at Pearson Street) through May 19th ( perhaps they will extend) with performances as follows:
Tuesday ( May 7th and 14th ONLY) at 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. 3 p.m. on 5/16
Fridays at 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays at 3 and 7:30 p.m.
Sundays at 3 p.m.
Tickets range from $36-$70 and are available at the box office, by phone at 312-337-0665 or online at www.lookingglasstheatre.org
TARGET Saturdays- some limited buy one-get one free for the 3 p.m. show
Student discounts- limited number of $20 tickets day of show only.
Discounted parking is available at the John Hancock Center and Olympia Centre Self Park ( 161 E.Chicago Avenue- make sure the sign says OLYMPIA) and bring your ticket to the theater for validation.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com go to Review Round-up and click at “Still Alice”