Thursday July 31st 2014

“The Trinity River Plays”

Recommended  Chicago audiences , over the years, have had many opportunities to view the works of Regina Taylor, and also to see her maturation as a playwright. Tonight, I was witness to her newest work at The Goodman Theatre which is co-produced by The Dallas Theater Center ( where it first took the stage). This is billed as a “trilogy” rather than a three act play ( 3 hours-15 minutes with two intermissions) which is a bit misleading as the stories, while bound together by the characters, depend and in fact ,rely on each other to make it complete. That being said, this production directed by the steady hand of Ethan McSweeny, makes this time at the theater enjoyable and emotional without being or feeling long and time consuming- no one around me ever looked at their watch- they were engrossed in the powerful characters that Taylor paints on her canvass.

The canvass itself is a masterpiece of a set designed by Todd Rosenthal. A marvelous home with a wonderful back yard filled with beautiful flowers that appear to be so real, one feels as if they can smell them. The cast of players in this production are as solid as one can ask as we spend a lifetime with this family. The main character is Iris ( a strong and powerful performance by Karen Aldridge, who goes from a shy nerdy 17 year old ( “Jar Fly-1978)to a worldly if not wise woman(“Ghost Story-1996) with “Rain, 1995 in between). In “JarFly” we meet this bright young writer who is spending her summer in her home with her aunt Daisy ( the always reliable Jacquline Willimas) and her cousin Jasmine, her opposite ( the lovely Christian Clark).  During this story, we meet the young man from down the block, the athlete Jack ( deftly handled by Samuel Ray Gates) who she tutors and adores, but who only sees her as a friend. Frank ends up having a “thing” with Jasmine and during this emotional time of her life, Jasmine introduces her to the “Jasmine way” which ends up leading Iris down a path that she had not seen ahead. We know what happens when her “uncle Ray Earl (Jefferson A. Russell) puts her to bed, but don’t realize the extent until later in one of the other stories,”Rain”.

“Rain” is 17 years later in the life of Iris and life has changed; it is her mother’s ( the delighful  Penny Johnson Jerald) birthday and Iris has returned to Dallas to help celebrate. There is a coolness between the mother and daughter and when it comes out the she and her husband Frank are in the process of a divorce it gets a bit colder ( at least for a bit). Aunt Daisy is still Aunt Daisy and Jasmine has gotten worse, never seeing her dreams come true and relying on substances to make it through each day, while Iris, has become an editor after writing several novels, but has not enjoyed the success she has earned. During this play, many Family secrets come out and start to unravel their lives. As it turns out the secret of what transpired for Iris on that bleak night back in 1978 had been shared by Jasmine earlier in he rlife as well. This is the start of the end for Iris as she must now face her life in a new light as she decides what to do next.

In the third act or section, “Ghoststory”, Mother has passed away and Iris is making plans for the funeral and what to do  with her life. She is now spending time with Jack who has become a success in the BBQ restaurant business and seems content, but then her ex-husband coms back to show his respect to his “mama Rose” ( after all, as he says “I divoced you, not your mother”. Emotions run high and possibly because of the death of Rose, these two grab at each other like long lost lovers, only to realize that it is indeed the emotion of the events. Later, when Jack comes by, the two men have some competition over the woman that they both seem to want, Iris, which adds some comic moments. including a great game of basketball-one-on-one in which the winner gets a lot more than a pair of boots and a cowboy hat.During this story, we see that Iris can see and speak with her deceased mother, who is trying to help her come to terms with their pasts and allow herself to let it go and have a future. It is here where  guess Ms Taylor is telling us through her canvass that we can overcome all of life’s obstacles and learn to forgive and forget the past- that all of the storms that we are dealt with are not as powerful as our desire to make it through them and overcome each and everyone. By the way, Jasmine straightens out her life just before Rose passes and Aunt Daisy is Aunt Daisy, always in the kitchen getting ready for another day.

“Trinity”  is overall a story that will cause you to think about your life, some of the storms that you have faced ( or might in the near future) and how you have or will handle them. From the beautiful set to the great lighting effects( Tyler Micoleau) and Karen Perry’s costumes, and of course the wonderful musical interludes that played between scenes, this is a complete and wonderful experience, capturing some very realistic moments onstage. Theater is designed to entertain and make you think about other than your everyday problems. This one will entertain and will make you think, but depending on your life and your won experiences, may not take your mind off of problems of your own past. If that be the case, it may allow you to think about the parallels of you own experiences with that if Iris and may allow you to come to terms with that. If this is so, then this play will be the resolution to years of keeping your secrets bottled up and isn’t that a wonderful thing to get out of being entertained?

“Trinity Rivers” will continue at The Goodman Theatre located at 170  N.Dearborn through February 20th with performances as follows:

Tuesdays (starting 2/8),Wednesdays,Thursdays and Sundays at 7:30 p.m.- Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.

matinees Thursdays,Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Tickets range from $25-$78 and can be purchased at the box office, by phone at 312-443-3800 or online at www.GoodmanTheatre.org

MezzTix are half price tickets and 10TIX are ten tickets located at the rear of the mezzanine for $10 ( students with ID). for further info check out the website.

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