Highly Recommended **** The Chicago theater world knows James Sherman as a playwright, but certainly not as the man on the stage. Well, my friends, meet the “other” James Sherman. With the extention of his new play, “The Ben Hecht Show” being presented by Grippo Stage Company at The Piven Theatre in Evanston, I was able to get the opportunity to see this World Premiere! Thank you Grippo for adding the extra weeks that made this possible, and thank you James Sherman for having the time available to continue bringing this historical figure to life.
As we walked into the very intimate space located in the Noyes Cultural Arts Center located in North Evanston at 927 Noyes Street (just East of Ridge) we see a man sitting at his desk, pounding the keys of a small typewriter ( for those of you unfamiliar with this instrument, it has the keyboard that your computer has, but when you touch them, a metal key reaches up and places the letter, using a ribbon that is inked, on a piece of paper. That was called “typing”. Through evolution, they learned how to add electric to speed it up and the they created a correction system, avoiding “white-out” (another lesson to learn) and way later, what we use now, the computer. Ben Hecht was a 1920’s newspaper journalist, who later became famous for his screenwriting.
Mr. Sherman, who has himself tackled the story-line of being a Jew during a period that was heavy with anti-Semitism, and having read Mr. Hecht’s books, “A Guide For The Bedevilled” and “A Child of The Century”, he decided that this is a piece of Chicago that has a story that needs to be told. Hecht was an assimilated American Jew who felt that what was happening in Germany and Poland were terrible and that “anti-Semitism” was running rampant in the world. It had to be stopped. Mr. Sherman, during this 90 minutes (no intermission) takes us through the ideas and ideals of Mr. Hecht. His trials and tribulations of hiding his “Jewishness” and telling the world that the Jews needed a place of their own-Israel!
Mr. Hecht was very influential in bringing this to be, raising money and making more people aware of the atrocities taking place in Europe. Despite this story being very telling about the terrible things, it is a story that will open your eyes to the man himself and his creativity and brilliant writing. FYI- The Newberry Library in Chicago is home to his Hecht Collection where one can learn more. I know that my proof reader, who joined me this evening, felt the need to read more of this writer’s words and works. This special piece prepared and presented by James Sherman, with solid direction by Dennis Zacek is something special and one can see as we watch Mr. Sherman’s face and movement that this was more than just another play, but in fact a work of love and adoration.
FYI -Mr. Hecht wrote or collaborated on over 70 films for major studios and directors. The technical portions of the production were truly well done and very fitting. The set (Abigail Reed) was truly of the period. The lighting and use of the slide projector (another antique of the times) by Rachel Lake fitting and whoever did the props, well done!
Stage Grippo Company focuses on cultural diversity with a special emphasis on Jewish themes, plays and playwrights. For info , visit www.grippostagecompany.com
“The Ben Hecht Show” will continue through August 14th (HOORAY) with performances as follows:
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 5 and 8 p.m.
Sundays 3 p.m.
Tickets are $30-$35 (open seating) and can be ordered by calling 1-800-838-3006 or visiting www.thebenhechtshow.brownpapertickets.com
The theater is located at 927 Noyes Street in Evanston, with plenty of free parking in the area. The “L” stop is right there Purple Line Noyes stop
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “The Ben Hecht Show”