Highly Recommended ****
Many of you know that I am in love with the whole idea of the “black box theater”, that little storefront type of venue where each production can be a total different feeling than the previous one. This is part of what makes “live” theater so exciting!. Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, that quaint little storefront that is just down the street from one of my alma mater’s, Senn High School (where I attended school in both sophomore and Junior years), is in fact one of those intimate spaces that truly makes theater “live”!
Their current production is a 90 minute Midwest Premiere, “Eat Your Heart Out” written by Courtney Baron. This is a small story about a woman, a single mom, Nance (played to perfection by Katherine Keberlein) who is about to meet her “Internet Date” for the first time. We are in a museum. The set designed by Regina Garcia is unique in that in this very tiny space, she is able to have an area that is the art museum, a bedroom in Nance’s home, another room in someone else’s home, a coffee shop and the living room, in yet another home. While this may sound confusing, under the direction of Hallie Gordon, this all works well. We, the audience, always know where we are.
It is ,however, the script that has confusion written into it. In watching the story unfold, I got the idea that this is the date and that during the date we are allowed to enter Nance’s mind, and see flashbacks that have made this a “day from hell” for her! Due to the number of times, Baron goes back and forth, I noticed a number of audience members looking as if they were lost. Pay close attention and it will make sense.
Nance is a social worker for an adoption agency. Her busy days are spent meeting with young couples who have exhausted their ability to have a child and are now ready to enter the world of adoption. We all know that it is much harder to adopt ,as they are very careful as to who these agencies select. The couple she is interviewing on what they call “a house call” (this is where they interview each of the spouses and see the home, so they can evaluate the type of life they will be placing the infant into) are Alice (the lovely Mary Cross) and Gabe (deftly handled by Michael Szeles). They are very stressed out about the system where they need to “qualify” and show the world just how good they would be at parenting. What happens during their “house Call” is what causes a great deal of stress for Nance, who has been having her own problems with her teen-age daughter Evie (a solid portrayal by Anne Joy) who is very fat and has little or no self-esteem. She has been this way since Nance’s ex walked away from her and her mother. Her only friend is Colin (a “nerdy type” played to perfection by Andrew Goetten).
As it turns out, Colin has a girlfriend back home who he communicates with via e-mail and who he claims loves him as he does her. Evie’s struggle to win her mother’s love as well as that of Colin is indeed stressful on her mother as it is on her. The man Nance is meeting, Tom (smoothly played by Charlie Strater) does not have much of a story to tell until late in the play. There is a bit of mystery to the storyline as it develops, so rather than spoil it for you, I will say that the loose ends do come to a realization as we get into the last minutes. Baron takes us into some very familiar topics; self-image, family, relationship, hearts and minds as well as finding “true love” and learning how important it is to “love thy self”!
This is a solid 90 minutes of story telling that has just a few confusing moments, but for the most part is tender and caring and can open one’s eyes to things that we tend to ignore, that should be looked at in great detail. While there were some very funny moments in the scenes involving Gabe and Alice with their plight to “get a child”, one must understand that Nance’s job is to make sure that she gets the proper information to the agency so they place the child in the best possible environment available. While we can laugh, we must pay attention. This is true of the weight problem for Evie. She is not fat because of her father leaving! She is not fat because her mother works to hard! She is fat because she eats the wrong things and far to much of it. While one might laugh at some of what baron brings to us, we must also make sure that we are learning from this and passing it along to those we care about.
Gordon has used the stage and the set to full advantage and every seat in the house has great sight lines to see all there is to see. Diane Fairchild’s lighting and Victorio Deiorio’s sound along with costumes by Christine Pascual and props gathered by Amanda Herman bring all the ingredients that make for the recipe for a Four Star production. Please note that all of these names are “female” names. For those of you unfamiliar with Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, their “Mission” states-”to advance women’s lives through the power of theater”! They do so with style and grace!
“Eat Your Heart Out” will continue at their space located at 5779 N. Ridge Avenue through July 12th with performances as follows:
Wednesday-Saturday at 8 p.m.Saturday matinee at 4 p.m.
Tickets are $30 Open seating and can be purchased by calling 773-334-7728 or online atwww.RivendellTheatre.org
Parking is available at Senn High School’s lot , enter from Thorndale Avenue or on the side streets (not on Ridge).
To see what others are saying, visitwww.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Eat Your Heart Out”.