Playwright: adapted by Peter Parnell from the novel by John Irving
At: Famous Door Theatre at Victory Gardens, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave.
Phone: (773) 871-3000; $15-$32
Runs through: April 6
John Irving's characters might make mistakes, sometimes injuring others in their ignorance. But in the end, they always do The Right Thing for the right reasons. The heroes of The Cider House Rules—Homer Wells, the orphan boy growing into manhood. Wally Worthington, born to privilege and humbled by war. Candy Kendall, the girl who loves them both. The surnameless Melony, driven by anger and loneliness. Obstetrician/ Abortionist Dr. Larch and his assistants, desperately creating order in a messy universe—are no exceptions.
It takes them a long time to learn what these Right Things are and why they are to be done, of course—two plays, each some three hours in duration, edited so concisely that some scenes consist of a single speech and salient complications are revealed in the most casual of remarks. But if the question with which audiences greeted Part I was 'Should you have read the book?' (answer: 'No, not if you listen carefully'), the question asked of Part II is 'Should you have seen Part I?' The answer this time is yes, for adapter Peter Parnell is forced to take some short-cuts in order to wrap up his saga satisfactorily.
But if six-plus hours, whether split over two evenings or condensed into one Saturday, seems a lot of theatre to absorb at once, the rewards are manifest. Co-directors Marc Grapey and David Cromer captain a marathon-trained ensemble—30 actors playing characters too numerous to count—that keep the pace steady and sure-of-step right up to the finish line, along with a technical crew that sweeps us through 60 years of social turmoil while replicating its disparate environments with documentary precision.
But even as we are awed by the sheer scope of our narrative and the industry invested by the Famous Door Company in its accomplishment, we find small truths to carry home with us: that our world is comprised of many worlds, and that the way of some may not be the way of others, and that contained within its infinite boundaries is the hope for each of us to find our own place in it.