Tuesday January 23rd 2018

“The Quality of Life”

 Values! When it comes to our lives and our lifestyles, we all have our own set of values. In “The Quality of Life”, a Chicago premiere, now on stage at The Den Theatre, Jane Anderson, we become involved with two families. One , a typical Midwestern couple, who recently lost their daughter and the other a west coast couple, who have recently lost their home to a fire, but of even greater importance, where the man is dying of cancer. The women are cousins, but have not had much communication,but Dinah ( Jennifer Joan Taylor) thinks that she and her husband Bill ( Steve Spencer) take the trip out to California. These couples are as different as night and day. Bill and Dinah are Church-going who are having trouble dealing with the horrific loss of their daughter. So much, that their marriage is falling apart. On the other hand Neil ( deftly handled by Ron Wells) and Jeanette ( a powerful performance by Liz Zweifer) are dealing with all that has happened in their lives with wine drinking and pot smoking ( medicinal purposes as Neil is dealing with cancer pain). Their home has burned and they are now living in a “yurt” ( a tent structure), eating outdoors and kind of enjoying the freedom.

Bill and Dinah cannot understand how at ease their relatives are with all the pain and suffering in their lives. While the are sympathetic to their needs, it soon turns into rage as Neil declares that he is planning to stop treatment and die. It becomes even more  intense between the couples when Jeanette declares that she can’t handle living alone, so she is planning to go with her husband. Directed by Lia D. Mortensen on a very busy set(Henry Behel) that allows us to feel that we are indeed in a wide open area in Northern California. The new venue at The den ( one of several stages) is very intimate and designed so that all of the 60 or so audience members can see all the action. The lighting (Andrew Vanderbye) and sound (Melissa Schlesinger) add to the realism and Jon Buranosky has assembled some incredible props.

While this is not an easy topic to relate with some comic touches, Mortensen and her cast make the words of Anderson feel very natural and real. They often say that the best theater is when the fourth wall comes down and the audience feels as if they are eavesdropping on real life. There is some very in-depth conversation about life and death, religious beliefs, morality and ethics. Do we have the right to allow ourselves to “pull the plug” . How long should a “mourning” period last? Should we allow the pain and sorrow of our lives to linger and destroy what brought us together in the first place? These are some of the questions that Anderson leads ut to find answers for in this gripping Chicago Premiere. It is charming as well with some lighter moments, making this two hours and fifteen minutes a complete production that will have you leaving the theater thinking.

“Quality” will continue at The Den Theatre located at 1333 N. Milwaukee Avenue ( 2nd floor) thru December 1st with performances as follows:

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

There is NO performance on 11/22 TURKEY DAY

Tickets are $25 and can be ordered online at www.brownpapertickets.com

There is a great lounge area where  beverages of choice can be purchased and many comfortable seating areas, so come early and relax before you see this show. Parking is available on the street ( metered) and the Blue Line stop is only a block away at Division and Milwaukee and Ashland.

To see more about this production, go to my home page, link on the theatre in Chicago and then visit review round-up and click on “The Quality of Life”

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