Wednesday December 13th 2017

“The Dead”

Recommended***During this time of the year, many of our local theaters bring us tradidional holiday fare, shows they do every year reaching both new and repeat audiences. The Court Theatre located in Hyde Park, is bringing back a holiday show, one that they did in 2002 and again in 2003, but with some changes. The production is James Joyce’s “The Dead”, but as a musical. The book by Richard Nelson with music by Shaun Davey with lyrics conceived by them is a combination of words taken right from Joyce’s “The Dead” while others were written for this concept. The story takes place in Dublin Ireland, circa 1904 at an annual party to celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany. This is an annual event that has been going on some thirty years, where the guests drink, eat, dance and sing. This festival/celebration is the twelfth night of Christmas where the revelation of God in Human form is to take place.

This is a 90 minute plus ( no intermission) theatrical experience that allows us to look at Irish traditions and an “extended family” that has great knowledge of each other. They do, however, allow some new guests to join their annual outing, but each of them must have some musical expertise. This amazing cast is made up of talented singers, musicians who are also fine actors and can tread the boards as well ( dance for those unfamiliar with this term). Directed by Charles Newelll with musical direction by Doug Peck ( who also plays the piano for the piece) one can see the love that they have for the work. It is in their hearts and their souls, which might account for them reviving it again. By having the musical instruments played by the performers, we the audience truly feel that the fourth wall has been removed and we are peeking in at festivities of the evening.

Gabriel Conroy ( deftly handled by Philip Earl Johnson) serves as our narrator as he introduces us to his aunt who are the hostesses for this annual event along with his cousin Mary Jane. The aunts are played by Mary Ernster (Aunt Julia) and Annie Gunn( Aunt Kate) with Regina Leslie taking on Mary Jane along with some great violing work. Mr Ernster truly gets to show off her vocal range as her instrument as does Ms Gunn. These “aunts” have graced many a Chicago area stage and as always they are sheer perfection in their roles. Gabriel’s wife, Greta ( the always divine Susie McMonagle) during this particular party is reminded of something in her past, a deep secret that comes out in the final scene and is a major blow to Gabriel’s evening. We also have a sequence where Julia takes ill and in her weakness also looks to her past and future.Rachel Klippel handles Julia as a youngster as well as one of Julia’s students.

The rest of the cast, also superb, are as follows:Suzanne Gillen ( Flute),Steve Tomlitz , who truly looks a sif he could have been raised in Dublin) Cello),    Jim DeSelm( Guitar), and Lara Filip as Molly,J.Michael Finley as Bartell D’Arcy , a visiting opera singer, The hysterical Rob Lindley as Freddy ( a drunk and wayward character) and Rebecca Finnegan as his mother. The sing and dance up a storm as they move about the stage on a simple set (Scott Davis) that relies more on furniture and props) well lit by Jennifer Tipton. The costumes by Linda Roethke are very period and the choreography (Katie Spelman) tryly gives one the feeling of an Irish party where drinks have been served all evening. While I found myself feeling many emotions in this lovely story, sadness, glee and elation, I suppose the way it ends might be a bit much for some, but I must say that this production with its changes is far superior to the previous one and so if this is to become an annual event, I am in hopes they will stay with this particular adaptation.

“The Dead” will continue at The Court Theatre, located at 5535 S. Ellis Avenue, on the campus of The University of Chicago through December 9th with perofrmances as follows:

Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.,Fridays at 8 p.m.,Saturdays at 3 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m.

Tickets range from $45-$65 and are available at the box office, by phone at 773-753-4472 or online at www.CourtTheatre.org

There is plenty of FREE Parking in an enclosed lot next door

There are standby and student tickets at reduced rates subject to availability on day of performance. Check the website for more info

to see what others have said, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to review round-up and click on The Dead”

 

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