Rivendell Theatre Ensemble is yet another of our “storefront” theater companies, this one with as part of its mission to give voice to women. As a troupe, they reach out to new playwrights and some who have not been seen in larger cities and bring their work to their intimate space on Ridge Avenue. Their current production, “The Electric baby” written by Stefanie Zadravek is a drama filled with some strangeness, but has some comical moments. The duration of the play is 95 minutes ( no intermission) and I am glad that they did not try to expand this into a two act play as it would have been impossible to keep the tension up with a break. The story is about people, people who come together under some strange circumstances. Directed by Tara Mallen on a stage that is the floor with seating on two sides and two raised stage areas to the right and left of the audience. One area is an apartment where Natalia (a wonderful performance by Kathy Logelin) sits, hovering over a baby in its cradle. At the start of the play, she does the usual theater announcements about coughing, cell phones etc, but also gives us cures for some of what ails us in the form of “old wives tales”. This was a bit confusing, to say the least.
The story begins with Helen ( Meighan Gerachis) and her husband, Reed ( deftly handled by the always reliable H.B. Ward) leaving a party that they never wanted to attend. They recently lost a daughter and are still having problems in dealing with her death. As they wait for their car to be brought to them, Helen decides to walk into the street ( it seems as though she can no longer take what life has dished out to her) and then there is a stop in the action. On the other side of the stage area, a young couple gets into a cab driven by an African immigrant, Ambimbola ( a solid performance by Lionel Gentle) who is hoping that his new life in American will bring him riches. The couple are co-workers who have just been fired, Dan ( Jeff Trainor, who also plays two other roles that end up being a ” for Rozie ( the very sexy Amanda Powell) who as it turns out is also a part time “escort”. As they argue in the cab, we go back to Helen running into the street and then we find that there is an accident that brings all of these characters together. It may sound confusing, but in reality as the story unfolds, we do get a better feel for what it is that Zadravec is trying to get accross to the audience.
All of the characters in this story are what might be called “fractured souls” . Helen is unhappy with the loss of her daughter as is Reed, who as it turns out knows Rozie from her other occupation. Dan dies in the accident, but all the other young men that come into the story resemble him, which eats at Rozie as she had rejected his attention and affection for a life of loneliness. It turns out that Ambimbola is married to Natalia, yet they are apart and it is their son that has the glow of the moon , and the story of how they met is a lovely scene that brings us into the world of “folklore”. Is this a great story? Is it one that could be a bit easier to follow? The answer to both these questions is probably yes, but this is a well done production with a cast of solid performers and has some very thought provoking moments. When we lose someone we love, is the spirit still near us? I know that even though my brother passed away over 40 years ago, there ar etimes, not often, that I feel his presence or I think I see him on the other side of a room. I know that I am not alone and that is why Reed found himself with this young Rozie, not for sex, but to sense a young girl who represents his Emily.
As the story unfolds we see the unhappiness that Helen and Reed are experiencing in their lives, but as the power of the folklore takes hold, we do see some hope for all of the characters.. The set along with the props are designed by Joanna Iwanicka and the lighting by Diane Fairchild. This is a limited space and a great deal is made allowing us to see the story unfold despite the small space. The original music by Kate Hopgood adds just the right touch for the “supernatural” feeling. “The Electric baby” will continue at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble located at 5779 N. Ridge Avenue through June 22nd with performances as follows:
Saturdays at 4 and 8 p.m.
There are NO Sunday performances
Tickets are only $30 and can be ordered by calling 773-334-7728 or online at www.RivendellTheatre.org
Free Parking is available at Senn High School parking lot ( a block and a half from the theater) enter off Thorndale Avenue. Bus service is available but you will have to do some walking.
To see what others say, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “The Electric Baby”