Friday November 24th 2017

“The Tin Woman”

Highly Recommended *****  Many of us take the ride to Munster ( just a hop, skip and jump from the “loop” for the wonderful musical productions they have been putting on since 1991, but they also do non-musical productions as well. Most often, they are comedies from  playwrights such as Neil Simon, but currently on their stage, they are presenting the Chicagoland premiere of “The Tin Woman” written by Sean Grennan, a “local writer” who has made good. The history behind this play is one of great note. Sean’s sister, actress Erin Noel Grennan shared with her brother a news clipping about a heart transplant recipient and their struggles with meeting the family of the donor. How does one handle such a meeting? Does one say “thanks”? Does the family feel as if this recipient has now become a member of the family?

This beautiful story, smoothly directed by Artistic Director Linda Fortunato who saw the early writings and wanted to bring this production to the regional theater in Munster, fell in love with the story and the way it is presented. The story is about a young woman, Joy (a divine portrayal by Erin Noel Grennan, who originated the role in the very first production) who has been given a second chance at life through a heart transplant. Joy is not a loving person. She fears being close to others and avoids hugs, of any type. This becomes of import as we reach the play’s climax. The young man who lost his life, a 36 -year- old man named Jack was a sort of loner, but had a family. A father, mother and sister, who miss him very much.

 

The mother (played to perfection by Annabel Armour) loved her son very much and when she receives a letter from Joy, asking if there is any possibility of arranging a meeting, accepts with open arms. In her mind, meeting with this person will help her to keep Jack alive (at least in her heart and soul). The dad, Hank (deftly handled by Steve Pickering), although he loved his boy, feels deep down that he was at odds with the boy and a fight they had on their last meeting may have been responsible for the auto accident that caused Jack’s death. The younger sister, Sammy (a marvelous character study brought to life by the adorable Kayla Kennedy) loved her brother deeply. After all, he was her “big brother” and protected her from all possible injuries and insults (except his) and when she is informed that the recipient is coming, feels as if she now has a new sibling, a sister!

 

The other two characters in the play are played to perfection by Jeri Marshall, who takes on the nurse handling Joy during her early hospital stay and her bosom buddy Dara  ( she is responsible for much of the comedy in this production). By the way, Jack is IN the play as well. Newcomer Doogin Brown takes on this role, first in what appears to be a spiritual form, then in a flashback (which we learn more about in the second act) an actual contact and then in the final stages of the play, he joins with Joy to make the family unit see that the second chance was not just for the recipient to enjoy, but for those who had been left behind.

What Grennan truly explores in this play, based on real life, is how people might react to what might be termed the “second chance” in life. If you were near death and an opportunity came to expand your life with someone

 

else’s heart, would you just be glad to go on? Or feel the need to touch the souls of the family who generously donated this organ to you? Would a family want to meet the person who now possesses that organ? The fact that a lost family member will not be replaced by the recipient remains a fact of life, but would or could the recipient feel obligated to become part of the “new family” because of their generosity?

I must tell you that this production moves very smoothly on a marvelous multi-leveled set by  Sarah Ross. Contained in the set is the hospital room where Joy comes to, her apartment, a coffee shop (very important scene in this play) and the home of Jack and his family. The lighting  (Shelley Strasser-Holland) and sound (Victorio Deiorio, who also did the original music) and the costumes (Brenda Winstead) along with the props (Brittney O’Keefe) show that an all-woman tech crew can do as much (or more) as any all- males staff. Congrats ladies-very impressive!!!

Act one is 55 minutes, act two, 45 minutes with 15 minutes between, so the entire production is a little less than 2 hours in total, and I must tell you that this is probably the quickest 2 hours you will ever spend in the theater. And, by the way, one of the best theatrical experiences you will ever have! I will say that the TAC people are truly wise in that they are waiting at each exit with tissues in hand to get you to your cars. I suggest at least 4 tissues, but you may need more, depending on your emotional status. If you have lost a child, a sibling (at a young age) or any loved one, you will feel what Grennan has taken from life to the page and then to the stage. If you know of someone who has had an organ transplant, who might have had contact with the donor’s family, you may need the whole box. Whatever your background, I suggest bringing at least a small container of tissues- you will need it!

 

 

“The Tin Woman” ( if you know the Wizard of Oz” you will understand the title) will continue at Theatre At The Center, located at 1040 Ridge Road in Munster (just off Calumet Avenue) thru August 13th with performances as follows:

Thursdays  2 p.m. (8/3 also a 7:30 p.m. show)

Fridays  7:30 p.m.

Saturdays  3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Sundays  2:30 p.m.

Tickets range from $40-$44 ( a bargain for a show of this quality) and can be purchased at the box office, by calling 219-836-3255 or 1-800-511-1552 and online at

For more info on talk-backs, dinner packages and specials visit www.TheatreAtTheCenter.com

Plenty of free parking

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “The Tin Woman”

 

 

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