Somewhat Recommended ** Every once in a while, I am placed in a position of being unsure of how to rate a production with my star system. There are times when the actors and direction are wonderful but the play lacks the story that would allow for the rave review, despite the performances. Then there are the times that the play is well written, but the actors are not right for the roles. The Raven Theatre is one of those smaller venues in a neighborhood that is consistent in the quality they bring to their stage. In fact, even when they are a rental house for other theater companies, over the years, I have found the work to be sparkling.
When I learned that they were bringing a study about the events of Hurricane Katrina, ” The Play About My Dad” to their stage, I felt the excitement stir within me. I recall the events of August 2005 (hard to believe it has been ten years) and the massive destruction to the communities in Guflport, Mississippi. Our Temple, Temple Sinai, was one of the organizations who sent food and clothing as well as drove down to aid those in dire need. It was one of those “community moments” where people forgot about their ordinary lives and did something extraordinary. For those who did so, I say, Thank You!!
“The Play About My Dad”, written by Boo Killebrew, tells of her father, a doctor in Gulfport, Mississippi, who stayed behind to take care of patients. The play is written in a confusing manner as when we enter the theater, we see what appears to be housing that is being built ( perhaps after the storm) and yet, it is used to symbolize other ports in the storm. The Doctor ( well played by Joe Mack) and his daughter are estranged, and have been for some time. It was Katrina that brought them together and thus her wanting to tell the story. Boo, our playwright (deftly handled by Tuckie White, who gets very emotional in the late scenes) is on the stage (set by Courtney O’Neill) playing with a light board. It is as if we are watching the tale unfold in a staged reading rather than an actual production. There are times that Boo changes the script despite her dad not wanting to do so.
The different characters that are involved are the Thomas family ( Rena handled by Paloma Nozicka, her husband Jay, played by Miguel Nunez and young Michael, an 8 year old survivor, played to perfection by Aaron Lamm). This family loses its home to the storm and possibly their husband/father. The good doctor takes the boy home to keep him safe and when his mother finds him safe, they are re-united and off to search for the rest of the family. There is a neighbor lady, Essie Watson (a fine portrayal by Sandra Watson) and then the good Doctor’s estranged wife, Sallye (JoAnn Montemurro). We learn about their rocky relationship through some flashbacks. The two other characters are two young men played by Patrick Agada and Nick Horst. Hard to tell if they are security guards or young cops, but they tend to be more security type.
The production is directed by Marti Lyons, who brings some special skills to a script that in my opinion is weak and needs some fine tuning so that we, as an audience care about the people, other than the Thomas Family and the elder Ms Essie. The relationship between the Doctor and his daughter, which feels as if it is still tainted, is supposed to show that the storm caused healing. I did not see that. Another strange twist is the timing. The play is in two acts, for a total of 90 minutes and has a 15 minute intermission, which made no sense and broke the continuity. The only thing different was that we were now back in the story and the Doc was in medical garb versus being dressed as a narrator in the first act. As I said from the start, I thought there was a great deal of talent in the show and some clever blocking, but I think the story-telling lacks enough zest and zing to be one that will draw large crowds.
You can judge for yourself by attending the Raven Theatre, located at 6157 N. Clark Street (at Granville) where this production will continue through November 28th with performances as follows:
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 8 p.m.
Sundays 3:30 p.m.
Saturday matinees at 3:30 p.m.
No Performance on Thanksgiving
Tickets are $42 General Admission (open seating), $37 for Seniors and students, teachers and military are $18. There are additional savings by ordering online in advance at www.raventheatre.com. You can also call the box office at 773-338-2177
There is free parking at the theater as well as some metered spots on the street. Of course, public transportation can bring you right to the door.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “The Play About My Dad”