Highly Recommended ***** When one hears 9/11, no matter why or for what reason, we are brought back to that dreadful day in our history. September 11th 2001. After many very quiet days in the country, with the exception of the workers in and around “The Towers” digging for clues and answers along with bodies and survivors, our country declared war on terror and the terrorists. Of course, just as with the Kennedy assassination, there are many who have always felt that what took place on that fateful day was in fact, a conspiracy. In Steven Dietz’s “Yankee Tavern” now on the stage at The Greenhouse Theater Center as part of the American Blues Theater season, we find that many of the secrets in people’s lives may have been just that!
Debuting in 2008, this is the first production in Chicago, and who better than American Blues Theater to present it. It is their mission to engage the audience in worthwhile projects that “Illuminate the American ideas of Freedom, Equality and Opportunity in the plays and communities they serve”! This production does just that.
Directed with exacting precision by Joanie Schultz on a very realistic set (Grant Sabin) we are in a rather seedy bar, the “Yankee Tavern” which is in a building that has been run-down and is facing condemnation. The tavern is run by Adam (a powerful performance by Ian Paul Custer), who as we learn inherited the building from his late father who may or may not have taken his own life. His father’s best friend, Ray ( Richard Cotovsky, who I would think will be nominated for a Jeff for this performance) a kind of “hippie” who is positive that there was indeed a conspiracy and has what he thinks is proof. Many of us hear that most bars and the regulars who frequent them are used to “tall tales” and the men who toss around same as if they were facts. Think about the TV show “Cheers” and the stories that we heard. Did Cliff really know all that he spouted? Was any of that true? This will sort of take you into that atmosphere as well.
On that day, as always, he was in the tavern brooding over the way his wife left him. On that day, the juke box in the tavern, stopped playing in the middle of “Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie” just as the first plane crashed into the North tower of the World Trade Center. Since that day, it has never played again!. This is a thriller that takes us to extremes in many ways. Is Adam part of a conspiracy? His fiancée, Janet (an incredible performance by Darci Naplepa) is losing her patience with him as she keeps finding out mysterious facts and holes in his life.
There is a great deal of mystery in this story and each character presents some interesting ideas and facts. I would never say anything to take away from the overall brilliance of this production, but I will tell that a stranger enters the tavern, Palmer (deftly handled by Steve Key), who brings some new facts to the table, or should I say bar. The conversations and allegations that we hear are cause to re-think what may have truly happened that day. Was the whole incident a plot? Not by terrorists, but our own government? Could it be that our president (Bush) needed a reason to take out those who were affecting his friends in the oil business? This is a two hour (including a ten minute intermission) story that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Who is telling the truth? Where do these facts come from? Or are they just theories?
From the very start to the very end, you will find yourself listening much closer than normal. Every sentence or idea that you hear will make you think about what you remember hearing or seeing on the news, in the paper or online. This is a strong piece of theater- one that makes you think, but one that also has some delightful scenes (Cotovsky has many of the comical lines and his delivery is delicious). Key’s character will capture your thoughts as well, because he represents all the secrets that we fear the government has kept from us. Whether you believe that 9/11 was what it has been purported to be or if you question all of the pieces that make up the story, you will be spellbound by this amazing production.
In addition to the solid direction, fantastic and very realistic set, what makes this production truly shine is all the other parts of the puzzle- costumes (Izuma Inaba), lighting (Brandon Wardell, sound (Rick Sims) and a great array of amazing props (Christopher Neville). American Blues is known for handling every detail to perfection and once again, Mission Accomplished!.
Thursdays 7:30 p.m.
Fridays 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays 7:30 p.m.
3/14 and 3/21 also 3:30 p.m.
Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets range from $29-$39 which is a bargain for theater of this quality.
To order tickets call 773-404-7336 or visit www.AmericanBluesTheater.com
To learn more about the “truth” contact firstname.lastname@example.org
American Blues Theater offers free Town Halls (post-show events) on the following dates:
February 28th, March 1st, March 8th and March 15th. These are always very educational and entertaining.
Parking on the street is often hard to find, so I suggest you park at what used to be the Children’s Hospital just North of the theater.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Yankee Tavern”