Sunday December 17th 2017

“The Book of Joseph”

BookOfJoseph Highly Recommended ***** “Never forget”! This is the phrase that the Jewish population has been taught to keep saying. World War II did happen and what Hitler did, was real (despite what many non-believers say). While we have had countless tales and stories to keep reminding us of the horrible atrocities, it seems there are more to explore and be shared. Chicago Shakespeare Theatre has commissioned a play, “The Book of Joseph” that is based on the writings and life of Joseph A. Hollander and his family. Written by Karen Hartman, this play chronicles three generations of the Hollander family taking us back in time to occupied Poland until today.  The book that Richard wrote is entitled “Every Day Lasts a Year”, and once you see this tale unfold, this title will make complete sense to you.

Directed to perfection by Barbara Gaines, this story , which is housed in the smaller, more intimate space, upstairs at Navy Pier, begins as if our host , Richard (a keen portrayal by Francis Guinan) is discussing the book he has put together about his family , in particular, his father Joseph (played to perfection by Sean Fortunato) based on letters that were found from the years mentioned earlier. The letters were written in Polish and German during the war years. Richard never knew any of these people and from the letters, he tells us of the situation in trying to get out of Poland, and how his father did make it, never ceasing to try to bring his family to his loving arms.CST_BookofJoseph_01_LizLauren-300x214

The letters that Joseph gets tell him of the plight that his family is living through, and that Joseph is himself fighting a battle here in the United States, having filed a suit versus the government to avoid deportation or perhaps even death. What he finds from these letters is that his father was able to save many of his friends, but not the family that he loved so dearly. Richard, in finding these letters, after his parents meet an untimely death, finds his world changed, as secrets came out from the letters as they were translated.

There are several mysteries and surprises in the telling of this story, so I will be careful not to spoil them. The flashbacks are amazing and the videos (Mike Tutaj) and the set (Scott Davis) along with great lighting (Philip Rosenberg) and wonderful sound/original music by Miles Polaski and Mikhail Fiksel add to the glowing feeling to the storyline. Rachel Healy’s costumes are very authentic and the wigs and make-up by Richard Jarvie along with the choreography and assistant direction by Matt Raftery round out a wonderful framed picture for the audience!CST_BookofJoseph_02_LizLauren-300x214

The ensemble is strong: Glynis Bell, Patricia Lavery, Amy J. Carle, Ron E Rains, Gail Shapiro, Brenann Stacker and Mikey  Gray, playing several roles and then the other writer, Craig Hollander (Adam Wesley Brown) the son of Richard, grandson of Joseph, who comes into the play for the second act. It is during this portion of the play that we learn even more about what might have happened after the discovery of the letters. It is astounding to watch the father and son, as they look at the life of their father and grandfather,and learn about their own relationship. That is where the beauty of this piece comes in. The play gives us some history, and yes, some missing pieces, but it does show us that the relationship between a father and his son, even when it seems estranged, deep down is always filled with love. A strong piece that I suggest be seen by everyone. You will laugh, you will cry, but you will learn and feel.

“The Book of Joseph” will continue at Navy Pier (upstairs) through  March 5th, with performances as follows:

CST_BookofJoseph_05_LizLauren-300x214Tuesdays  7:30 p.m.

Wednesdays  1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Thursdays  7:30 p.m.

Fridays  7:30 p.m.

Saturdays  3  and 8 p.m.

Sundays  2 p.m.

Running time, 2 hours and ten minutes with an intermission.

Tickets start at  $38 (to $58)   audience members under 35, only $20.

Call the box office to reserve yours at 312-595-5600 or online at www.chicagoshakes.com. This is a smaller theater, so do not wait!CST_BookofJoseph_03_LizLauren-300x214

discounted parking during the run at $15 in the Navy Pier garage (bring your ticket to the theater to be stamped)

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “The Book of Joseph”

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