WINDY CITY TIMES
||Sweet and Sad
by Jonathan Abarbanel, Windy City Times
This article shared 1956 times since Wed Sep 12, 2012
Playwright: Richard Nelson. At: Profiles Theatre Main Stage, 4139 N. Broadway. Tickets: 1-773-549-1815; www.profilestheatre.org; $35. Runs through Oct. 7
Despite winning a Tony Award, Richard Nelson isn't a household name, even among dedicated theatergoers. Although several Nelson plays have been produced hereSome Americans Abroad, Principia Scriptoriae and The Return of Pinocchiohis career has flourished largely on the East Coast, in Europe and at several regional theaters beyond Chicago. It's our loss as Nelson is one of this country's most political and intellectual playwrights.
Sweet and Sad premiered in New York Sept. 11, 2011, the 10th anniversary of the World Trade Center disaster, and takes place on that anniversary. It's one of four plays in a projected cycle about a U.S. family, the Apples, before and after 9/11/01.
There's nothing more American than Mom and apple pie, so Nelson's chosen family name provides obvious imagery. The six characters we meet over brunch, in a well-to-do Hudson River town north of New York City, consist of an aging uncle dealing with early-stage Alzheimer's disease, four adult siblings (three sisters and a brother) and one sister's boyfriend. The 95-minute play takes place in real time (that is, the passage of time for the characters also is a continuous 95 minutes), and it's a meander more than a story.
While all are solicitous of the admired uncle (a professional actor), the siblings bicker among themselves, picking up conflicts exactly where they left off last time they gathered. Nelson provides a great deal of factual and emotional expositionthe brother's status as a wealthy corporate attorney is attacked, sister Marian and her husband have split after the suicide of their adolescent daughter, and sister Jane and her actor boyfriend have had an on-again/off-again relationshipbut there's no plot or finality. Sweet and Sad is a series of character arcs without a story arc. True to the title, there are moments both sweet and sad, funny and touching, and angry and nurturing without anything conclusive. There's a healthy dose of comedy of manners aimed at the comfortable upper middle class Nelson portrays but there is darker matter, too, as they recall 9/11. Even so, it's impossible to clearly discern Nelson's politics (to what degree liberal or conservative?), suggesting it will be necessary to see the entire cycle of plays to weave his threads into whole cloth.
Written as a true ensemble piece with no dominant role, the play employs a totally life-like method of overlapping dialogue, a difficult acting technique. Nelson may specify the overlaps, or it may be as director Joe Jahraus and company have interpreted the work. Whichever, it brings convincing realism to the performances although sometimes actors are not audible when they speak in hushed tones, facing away from you in the in-the-round stage (which benefits from Shaun Renfro's simple-but-handsome blond wood setting).
This article shared 1956 times since Wed Sep 12, 2012
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