I know that many a good story was written by a British playwright, but often wonder why the production company feels they must present it as an “English story” in a local production. Haven Theatre Company’s U.S. Premiere of Deborah Bruce’s “The Distance”, a play about motherhood, fatherhood and control certainly can be easily adaptable to be right here in America with no accents used. Perhaps doing this would have made the stories more understandable. in a smart production on the smaller stage at Raven Theatre, Elly Green has smoothly directed this saga about a woman, Bea (Abigail Boucher) who has returned to England after being away for five years, leaving behind her husband and her two sons.
She has decided that what she can offer her children is not “the best”, so rather than give them less, she is willing to walk away from them. Her best friends come to her aid to try and convince her of her talents and abilities as a Mom, but along the way, in watching this cast of actors, I never really got the sense that they were all that confident in her abilities either. In fact, I was uncertain as to their own ability to raise a child. This was a great concern for me. The best friends are Alex ( a strong performance by Allison Latta) who also has a son ( who we meet in the second act)Kate (deftly handled by Megan Kohl) and her mate, Darragh (the very Scottish character portrayed by Layne Manzer, who at times was difficult to understand). In the second act we learn about their little “family secret”. Vinnie, a somewhat unexplained friend (played by Patrick Gannon) almost seemed like he came by for a drink with Alex and never left. If you think I got lost, you might be correct.
Act two brought us Liam (played to perfection by Nik Kmiecik), the teen-age son of Alex, who tries to make sense out of the gathering in his home. We are not sure where he has been during the first act, and I for one would have liked to know. Bea has a wonderful scene with Liam where we almost feel as if reality has set in . There are some “Skype” bits on the computer with Bea’s ex and the two boys, but she doesn’t want any part of this. She has opted out for “the good of the boys”. The first scene of the play deals with a hotel room that has been given to Bea and the “man” (Josh Odor). Later in the second act, after a huge fight with her friends, Bea ends up back with him, and one can imagine that they have had sex and agree to meet again. Not sure if this is setting up another play, but only time will tell. FYI-The “F” word is used quite a bit in this play along with some other profanity.
I will say that Joseph Schermoly has designed a very clever multi-use set where the conversion from bedroom to living room and back is done almost as choreography with some wonderful music by Stephen O’Connell. Rachel Sypniewski’s costumes and Archer Curry’s props along with lighting by Claire Chrzan ad sound by Joe Court are the finishing technical touches to this two hours of story-telling with a ten minute intermission.
As I drove home from The Raven, I thought about the story and the characters. Why were they friends? They really did not care about each other. In fact, they were all selfish people who only cared about appearances. Alex had a son who seemed “lost” and searching for himself. Bea saw this, but Alex did not. The secrets that they all had were very deep and certainly affected who they were and the people in their lives. We never learned all the facts or what Bea truly meant when she said that she was not “good enough” for her sons. Truly something painful must have taken place. Why leave us out in the cold? These were decent actors in need of a better script.
“The Distance” will continue at The Raven Theatre Complex, located at 6157 N. Clark Street (at Granville) thru June 26th with performances as follows:
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 8 p.m.
Sundays 3:30 p.m.
Tickets (open seating) are $28 (senior and student $14) and can be purchased by calling 1-800-838-3006 or online at www.haventheatrechicago.com
There is a free lot adjacent to the complex (first come-first served) as well as street parking (some metered, some not) and of course both the Clark Street (#22) and Broadway (#36) stop right at the door.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “The Distance”