The works of Arthur Miller, one of America’s greatest playwrights, are works that every student of the theater should bear witness to. “All My Sons”, Death of a Salesman” and of course, “The Crucible”, but there is one very little-known play, if one can truly call this a “play”, “The American Clock..a Vaudeville”, that most Chicago audiences probably are not even aware of, let alone seen. This is a play that took almost 15 years to go from idea to performance and I can only recall it being done in Chicago once, back in 2005 and by the same company, Redtwist Theatre Company, albeit, in its earlier production, they were named Actors Workshop.
Yes, Redtwist, has opted to re-stage this play that deals with views of the people during the “Great Depression” depicting the different members and levels of society and how they were affected by this period of time. The play, is in reality two acts of sequences with some of the characters being followed and others just having one appearance, so there are actors portraying more than one character. This is however a huge cast for a storefront theater, filling the small stage area with as many people on the stage as in the audience. Music such as “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries”, “On The Sunny Side of the Street”, I’m Sittin’ on Top of The World” (the only song that Miller actually selected for the show) are a sign of the times. The songbook for this production was made up of songs that director Jan Ellen Graves thought were fitting for her style and interpretation of the show..and they were. To perfection!
Hope and joy are what the people of this period had to look forward to, and Miller dips deep into the minds, and perhaps souls of the characters that represent the classes of people during this Great Depression. Every gasp of air they grasp for is with hope in mind- hope for a better day tomorrow than they had today, and an even brighter one the day after. Miller based his play on the works of Chicagoan Studs Terkel’s “Hard Times”, also a look at ordinary people, like you and me, and how some made it through with ease and others had tragic ends.
Red Twist is a double storefront theater located in the Edgewater neighborhood, where the audience is very close to the action. Graves knows the stage here better than most and her design team, Eric Luchen (set), Kathryn A Lesko (lights), Allison M. Smith (costumes), Karli Blalock (sound) and Angela M. Campos (props) have done a bang-up job. Mark Bowman handles the piano playing duties in this production, although, it is played as if the actors on the stage are making the music that Ms Graves has selected to make her production, her production.
This is a true ensemble piece and Ms Graves has selected a strong and very high energy cast. Led by Brian Parry as Arthur A. Robertson, who is our storyteller, we have Aaron Kirby (a solid Lee Baum) and his parents Moe and Rose (Jeff Gamlin and Melonie Collman, who has a lovely singing voice). They are wealthy people who show the process of losing it all and the sacrifices that were made to survive during these lean years. Robertson never had a problem as he saw the handwriting on the wall. The rest of the cast -Sema Miller, Beau Forbes, Debra Rodkin, Jerry R. Miller, Caleb Fortune, Brenton Abram-Copenhaver, Johnny Garcia, Adam Bitterman, Ben Kirberger, Elizabeth Argus, Rebecca Wolfe, Michael Sherwin, Abby Dillion and Sarah R. Sapperstein, all take on a myriad of roles and keep the flow of action constant during this 2 hours and 40 minutes of action and story-telling.
While this is not classic Miller, it is solid theater and an experience that you should have if you enjoy unique theatrical productions. If you are a Miller lover, you might want to make sure this is one you see as you may never have another opportunity to do so. “The American Clock..a Vaudeville” will continue at Redtwist Theatre located at 1044 West Bryn Mawr thru May 17th with performances as follows:
Fridays 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays 7:30 p.m.
Sundays 3 p.m.
Tickets are $30-$35 (seniors and students save $5) and can be ordered by calling 773-728-7529 or online at www.redtwist.org. Credit Cards can be used to guarantee seating. Remember, this is a smaller theater, so seating is limited.
There is some street parking, metered and not, as well as valet parking at some of the area dining spots. Public transportation is readily available with the RedLine Bryn Mawr station just half block away from the door of the theater.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “The American Clock”