Somewhat Recommended ** It isn’t often that I can see a play, in particular, a production on the main stage of Steppenwolf Theatre, and feel that I had wasted an evening where I could have watched the Vice-presidential debates. Tonight, was one of those nights. I went to the theater with high hopes and anticipating a special evening. I knew that the story was one dealing with death through cancer, and having had a brother who died young from this disease, was prepared for some strong emotions. The play is “Visiting Edna”, a World Premiere, written by David Rabe and directed by Anna D. Shapiro. These are award- winning professionals, so why not expect the best!
As I entered the theater, being a no curtain production, I saw the set and once again, realized the special talents that we have in our city. David Zinn’s apartment, a two bedroom, may be small, but it is very realistic in appearance. We even see the outside of the building, from the courtyard and can see the window a/c units projecting out from the brick walls. Nice job- very real. I will also tell you that during the rain scenes, we see and hear the rain falling from the sky and the gutters. In fact, the technical aspects of this show at least kept me into it. Linda Roethke’s costumes, Marcus Doshi’s lighting, and the original music and sound by Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen.
The story is about an aging mother, Edna (Debra Monk is wonderful, and far exceeds the material that she has been given), who has suffered many illnesses during her aging process and is now facing a bout with cancer. Her son, Andrew (deftly handled by Ian Barford) is home for a visit and is trying to bridge the gap that has come between them over the years. After all, he has moved away, gotten married, raised kids (and four dogs) and travels for work. He has done well, but the time has erased some of the love they shared in his youth. He does care about her or he would not have come to not only visit her, but to take her to a new doctor who may have the answers they are seeking. This sounds like a nice story about love and relationships, but there is also mention of his father and some negatives, yet, Rabe never takes us into the depths that are within Andrew’s soul.
The true “rub” of this play comes with the other three characters in the play! There is Actor 1 (wildly played by Sally Murphy), Actor 2 (Tim Hopper) and Actor 3, Michael Rabe (the author’s son). I do not want to ruin some of the imagery that Rabe has created, but will tell you that all three of these “actors” are important to the style that Rabe has chosen to tell his story. Actors 1 and 2 are in some ways narrators as well as “characters” and the characters are sort of unreal. Actor 3 is featured in the second act in a dream sequence that woke up several audience members.
I am sure there are some values to the plot, but being someone who has experienced the loss of a loved one to cancer, I did not see them. There were many little flaws as well. This is 1990 and I am sure Medicare was already in place, yet, when Edna talks about not getting treated properly she blames her HMO. Medicare would have taken care of all this, so I think Rabe missed the boat on this part of the story. Not wanting to spoil some of the other parts of the story, I will only tell you that there were many instances in the scenes with Barford and Murphy that were confusing and somewhat mindless (understanding who her character was). I did not stay for the discussion after, which perhaps would have given me a clue as to exactly what Rabe was trying to express about the Mother/Son relationship in his play.
“Visiting Edna” will continue of the main stage at Steppenwolf Theatre located at 1650 N. Halsted Street thru November 6th with performances as follows:
Wednesdays 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays 7:30 p.m.
Fridays 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Sundays 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday matinees are 2 p.m. on October 19th, 26th and November 2nd
Tickets range from $20-$89 and can be purchased at the box office, by calling 312-335-1650 or online at www.steppenwolf.org
Rush tickets half price, one hour prior to curtain
Students can purchase discounted tickets at $15 online BUT must bring valid student ID upon pick-up (limit 2)
10/16 ASL Interpretation
10/30 touch tour at 1:30 p.m. for 3 p.m. audio described performance
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Visiting Edna”