Highly Recommended*****Bravissimo!!! This is probably the best word to sum up Theo Ubique’s production of”The Light In The Piazza”, now on stage at the charming No Exit Cafe in Rogers Park. This company amazes me with the work they put on in what used to be a coffee house and is designed for small cabaret shows, yet, they take major big stage productions and recreate them as intimate theater. Not only do they make these productions special, but they bring a certain intimacy to them allowing the audience to get the full meaning and feeling of what the playwright had in mind when writing the story. “The Light In The Piazza” has a book by Craig Lucas with music and lyrics by Adam Guettel and is based on a novella by Elizabeth Spencer that tells the story of an American woman who takes her daughter to Italy to experience the magic that she felt years earlier. As the story unfolds, we learn more about the mother daughter relationship and why the mother is so protective of this charming young lady.
Directed by Fred Anzevino and Brenda Didier, who have brought to this stage a superb cast of players, this is a solid production from start to finish. This show was done at the Goodman before Broadway and recently was performed at The Marriott Lincolnshire . How does one compare this production to those with higher budgets and much more space? To be honest, there is no comparison. This low budget, storefront production has more heart and soul and with the intimacy of the smaller venue outshines all the previous productions I have witnessed. I don’t know how TheoUbique finds the talent that fills their stage, but they are experts.
Margaret ( the mother) is played by a new shining light for Chicago, Kelli Harrington, who absolutely mesmerized me with her performance. remember this name , because she is will be snapped up by other theater companies- she is superb! Clara, her daughter is handled nicely by Rachel Klippel, who has a great set of pipes and handles this difficult, almost operatic score with great ease. There is a lot of Italian in his story , and in the music, and yet, under the careful direction of Mr. Anzevino and Ms Didier, I never lost track of the story. Another newcomer to this company is Justin Adair as Fabrizio the young man that Clara meets and falls in love with. That is the premise of the story- young love between two people of different cultures and how the parents learn to cope with what the young people want despite the differences.
As I stated above, the entire ensemble is perfect; Pavi Praczko as Fabrizio’s brother, Michael Kingston deftly handles the father and denise Tamburrino is adorable as his mother. Elizabeth Lanza, Clay Sanderson,Christin Boulette and William Aaron round out the cast. The voices, although few in number, fill the theater as if there was a full cast under the musical direction of Jeremy Ramey and his orchestra . They are also small in numbers, but huge in talent as they bring this musical score to life. A piano, violin,bass and harp is all they have and yet, the sounds were as resounding as when I saw this with 16 pieces.
For those of you who have been to The No Exit Cafe in the past, they have made some major changes to the stage area. It is not in front of the windows and has been multi leveled with the look of a Piazza, pillars and all. Adam Veness has outdone himself on this one. In fact, the entire production is top notch with great lighting effects by Michale M. Nardulli, costumes by Bill Morey and props by Paige Keedy. This production is scheduled to run through April 29th, but I see an extension for this one as it is a powerful look at humanity while being an entertaining theatrical experience.
Performances are Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m.
Tickets are $29-$34 which is a true value for theater this powerful and can be purchased by calling 800-595-4849 or online at www.theo-u.org
No Exit also offers a dinner package , 3 course for $20 extra and they do it right with the theme, plus drinks are available and parking is available with a shuttle from the nearby lot. Check the website for info. The theater is located at 6970 N. Glenwood Avenue is Rogers park and the Red line Morse Avenue stop is just around the corner.