Tuesday August 22nd 2017

“Sweet Bird of Youth”

The Goodman Theatre, over the last several years has used “star power” to bring classic works of theater to Chicago audiences. Their latest is the work of Tennessee Williams in a reworking of the classic “Sweet Bird of Youth” as seen through the eyes of Chicago director David Cromer, who has been called “the definative current interpreter of mid-century American poetic drama” ( Chicago Tribune). “Sweet Bird Of Youth” is a story of two people, both starting to see that their youth is fading and their lives are undergoing major changes. As the play opens, we are in a wonderful hotel suite ( the sets by James Schuette, who also designed the costumes are beautifully done) with our two main characters in bed. Chance Wayne ( played to perfection by Finn Wittrock) is a drifter , a gigolo who grew up in this tiny Gulf Coast community of St. Cloud, but had to leave because of an event early in his life. As his hair is starting to get thin, he sees that his life has passed him by and he has returned in order to get back with the love of his life, Heavenly , who is the reason he had to leave. In bed with him is aging movie star, The Princess Kosmonopolis aka Alexandra del Lago ( the glamorous and powerful Diane Lane) who is in search as well…for her youth , and in hiding from a recent movie that she knows will be unsuccessful and bring her down for the final count.

What this play represents, as told by Williams is two different personalities who are bent on the same mission; to regain what is now being lost due to age. Alexandra, the power of stardom that she once had and for Chance, an opportunity to regain what he had in his youth and get back the love and adoration of the girl he loved years ago. The time is the 1950’s , so the South was still in turmoil and the corrupt Boss Finley, Heavenly’s father, has decided that he cannot allow Chance to ever see his daughter again and better yet, to be tossed from the city. John Judd, as always, does a strong job as Boss and Vincente Teninty as his son Tom Junior. Most of the charcaters in this show are really here to paint the pictures of what took place and to give us the background. The major characters are in fact Chance and Alexandra, but a strong ensemble of players make the production and the story telling work.

Penny Slusher as Aunt Nonnie, who at one time cared about Chance and doesn’t want to see him hurt; Jennifer Ensgstom as Miss Lucy, girlfriend of The Boss, who also has feelings about what transpired in this town; Kristina Johnson as Heavenly;Sean Cooper as the Heckler who continues to try to bring Boss Finley down in these changing times and Colm O’Reilly as George Scudder, the Doctor involved with the “operation” that destoryed Heavenly’s life. all excellent perdormances as were thos eo fthe rest of the cast. The heart and soul of “Bird”, however is the realtionship of these two characters and how they affect each others lives. This is three hours ( two intermissions) of pure Williams mastery of the word and story as presented through the eye of Cromer.

As I said earlier, the sets were beautiful, but in the third act, the use of the turntable stage made it a bit awkward for the viewers to keep up with the movement. I found that the lighting (Keith Parham) was a bit darker than I would have expected, despite the story being a “dark one” and while the original music by Josh Schmidt was very fitting to the story line, the sound was a bit off as there were times that the actor’s lines were lost.Maya Ciarrocchi’s projections were done to perfection and David Wooley’s Fight Chorography very solid. The ending of the story is one that may not be anticipated and as in many Williams’ productions, the actors do from time to time step out and break the fourth wall to talk to the audience. The last sequence of the story may just shock you, but it is fitting!

“Sweet Bird of Youth” will continue a The Goodman Theatre through October 28th . To see the performance schedule complete ,visit www.GoodmanTheatre.org where you can also purchase tickets or by phone at 312-443-3800 or at the box office located at 170 N. Dearborn.

Tickets range from $27-$88

For more on this play visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to review round-up and click on “Sweet Bird of Youth”

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