Tuesday August 22nd 2017

“The Last Act of Lilka Kadison”

Highly Recommended  How lucky Chicago is to have a theater company like Lookingglass! This marvelous company was just awarded the Tony Award for best regional Theater and their current production is one that will show you why.  The world premiere of a Lookingglass original, “The Last Act of Lilka Kadison” written by Nicola Behrman,David Kersnar,Abbie Phillips,Heidi Stillman and Andrew White,  a stirring, emotional story inspired by the life and work of Johanna Cooper and her public radio series “One People,Many Stories” is filled with deep emotion and some history of Poland during the days before the start of World War Two. While the story begins today, in Los Angeles, in the home of Lilith Fisher, an elderly woman, who is very ill and is being taken care of by a caregiver, the story is about her past and the ghosts that will not allow her to be at peace.

Lilith ( a powerful performance by Marilyn Dodds Frank, who is always “right on” with her character building) as it turns out is in fact young Lilka Kadison ( played to perfection by Nora Fiffer) and the ghosts of her past are with her in her waning health years. Ben Ari Adler ( deftly handled by Chance Bone) was her first love, a theatrical person who convinced her to help him with his plays as a 17 year old and as they worked together a special bond was built, one that as it turns out haunted her for her entire adult life as she escaped Poland and he didn’t. This is a love story that is pure and simple- a boy and a girl fall in love, but with the war came fear and terror and as it turns out death, yet, this love was so powerful that it never faded despite war, decades and all that took place during these 60 plus years.

Directed by David Kersnar with a magical touch ( including lots of magic ( supervised by Brett Schneider) on a magnificent set by Jaqueline and Ricrad Penrod, filled with some of the greatest array of props (William Anderson) I have ever seen on a stage, this is a magical carpet ride through history and love. While it will open your eyes to many Jewish traditions, as the old saying goes “You don’t have to be Jewish” to love and feel the emotion that these writers are able to bring to the stage. We all find ourselves thinking of the ghosts in our past; the things that we keep bottled up and feel for Lilith/Lilka as we learn the story that she has kept within her mind and heart for all these years. The music ( Rick Sims is both musical director and composer of the original works) written for this show and used is meaningful and adds to the emotion of the magic of the moment. The puppetry, the set, the magic and the four talented actors make this a “must see” play. The caregiver, played by the always reliable Usman Ally, is a Pakistani and speaks of his inability to see his mother who remains home as since 9/11 things have changed and with the war visas are not as easy to obtain as they were. So both the patient and the caregiver are faced with the reality of what war can do to a family and as the story progresses, these two opposites become more knowing of the others feelings and begin to care.

This is a story that is filled with humor ( Ms Frank has great timing in her delivery) and emotion and I will tell you that the ending will stun you and bring a tear to your eye, but not a tear of sadness, but rather of joy. This is  80 minutes of wonderful theater and no matter your ethnicity, a story that is worth seeing as both a theatrical experience and an insight into your own life. Many organizations have teamed up with lookingglass Theatre to enhance the audience experience; Facing History and Ourselves, The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, Kartemquin Films.The Spertus Institute and the Raven Foundation to name a few. There will be many discussion groups during this run see www.lookingglasstheatre.org to learn more.

This production will continue at The Lookingglass Theatre located at  the historic Water Tower Works, 821 N. Michigan Avenue ( at Pearson) through July 24th with performances as follows:

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

Tickets range from $34-$62 and can be purchased at the box office, by phone at 312-337-0665 or online at www.lookingglasstheatre.org

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