Chicago is a great theater town! From our large Broadway In Chicago theaters, our regional show places and our outstanding suburban venuews, but when it gomes to the “gritty” theater, it is our “storefronts” that truly add to thedynamics that make us a step ahead of any other major city. One of these storefronts is a company called Oracle Theatre located at 3809 N. Broadway ( just a home run northeast of Wrigley Field. Oracle is quite unique in the style of productions they present, but also in its admission price. This is “Public Access Theatre”! What this means is the ticket price is ZERO. Yes, that is correct, ZERO, so Oracle works with the spirit of presenting art and exposing their productions to anyone who wants a full life ( which includes “live theater”) This has been their program since 2010 and based on the full house tonight ( on a Monday, no less), I would say it is working. The sponsors they have are excited to be a part of this giving company and those who visit the theater, can, if they desire, make a donation for the performance or learn how they can be even more involved with this unselfish and very talented Comappny.
Their current production, “The Mother” is a musical adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s 1930’s play that was designed to be a learning play ( Lehrstucke) in order to teach the German’s about the Russian community as they get involved with conflicts between labor and government, and one widow’s plight to save her son, an activist , from imprisonment or worse.Translated by Steve Gooch, with Music by Jonathan Guillen( from the original by Hanns Eisler), this is a very dark production, set in their storefront in a way that the audience almost feels the heartbeats of the actors.There is no real set; we enter the room, filled with large tables, some with chairs and some with stools. On each side of the performance area, there are screens so we can watch the videos of what is going on( video design by Jeremy Clark). There are actors in place when we enter, frozen in poses of every type and when the production begins, we are smack dab in the middle of a labor strike situation. The workers want more money, the owners will not give it to them and the militia is there to fend off any rebellions or strikes.
Directed by Max Truax, we have actors go under tables, walk from table to table and come as close to audience members as one could ever expect. The lighting ( Erik Van Tassell) is dim for the most part , but there are several kep oints in the production that they become blazing and if you are short, there may be times that you will have problems seeing the screen without craning your neck. Needless to say, the action is so powerful, you can follow the story without knowing what scene we are in, asthe actors convey it all to us, in words, songs and actions.
The question is- is this play about the Russian Revolution? Is this play about Marxism? Or is it in fact a story about unrest with a people during hard economic times? Or even a protest, not so much about those who are in power, but a way of ridding themselves of this power and heading towards a new furture, one of more independence?Marxism may not have been the solotion that the Russian population needed at the time, but perhaps it did open their eyes to overthrowing what was there and finding a wa to replace it with something that could unite the people. In this story, young Pavel Vlassov ( a strong performance by Rick Foresee) was one of the factory rebels and because of his desire to see changes, and his Widowed mother, trying to protech him, Palagea ( Katherine Keberlein, is near perfection in this role) they become closer.
In fact, the entire cast is made up of strong voices and solid performers, many of whom are playing gender-bender roles ( women playing male parts) but they are so strong, it made no difference.Stephanie Polt, Havalah Grace, Jamie Bragg, Cody Proctor, Zachary Baker-Salmon, Sarah Pretz, Yael Wartens, Eli Branson and DeChantel Kosmatka as “the Commissioner”. All solid performers in every way!
A few more kudos: Brad Jayhan-Little ( props), Lyndsay Rose Kane ( movement Director), Ben Fuchsen ( Sound Design),Nicholas Tonozzi (Musical Director and Arranger)and Joan Pritchard ( Costumes). Director Truax has assemble the perfect team, both on the stage and off to bring this hard-hitting story to this tiny stage, an dto think, at NO CHARGE to those who bear witness to same. That trult makes for a theatrical expereince one will remember!
“The Mother” will continue at The Oracle, located at 3809 N. Broadway through May 25th with a performance schedule as follows:
Sundays at 7 p.m.
The show runs 105 minutes ( one hour forty five minutes) with NO INTERMISSION>
As stated several times, tickts are FREE, but limited. To reserve yours, visit www.publicaccesstheatre.org or www.oracletheatre.org
Parking is metered in the area, but there are a few spots on Sheridan Road that are free,. Just be careful on Cubs night games. The Broadway bus ( #36) is probably the best way