Friday, September 23, 2016

Review of Adventure Stage Chicago's Reprise

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Reprise. It was a devised piece directed by Sarah Rose Graber. The composer and music director was John Szymanski. It was about a little boy (Kalman Strauss) as he grew up (played at older ages by Jacob E. Kelly and Jose Nateras) with a violin given to him by Harriet Vittum (Justine C. Turner) at the Northwestern Settlement House. The story is that he comes back many years later and returns the violin, and that did really happen. They made the play to imagine what he'd been doing with it all those years. I think that is a very interesting idea for a show.

I love live music on stage in plays. It really can immerse you in the story. It makes you feel like you are really there. I thought the music in this show was very simple but nice at the same time. Music can really bring people together, and this show really emphasized that. I felt like Kalman Strauss was really great at playing violin. So it was really cool to see him start out pretending to be a really bad violin player and how he got to grow into an amazing one.

Everyone in the show seemed very committed to telling the story and really making sure that everyone in the audience was really into it. There was a lot of direct address that made the audience feel very involved. One of my favorite scenes was when the boy and his friend (La Shone Kelly) were playing marbles and one rolled under the door and they had to go get it. And they found the music room, and that is when both of their loves for music started. They aren't supposed to be in the music room, so Harriet catches them. And then she gives him a violin because his father had played violin and he still wanted a part of his father with him. The friend was really charming and fun to watch. I also really liked Turner who made Harriet a very lovable character.

I had a couple of ideas about how this show could have been even better. I feel like, since none of the story about the boy was based on the truth except the end where he brings back the violin, they could have been more creative with their choices. It would have been fun if they had had some crazy ideas in with the realistic ideas. Like, what if he thought the violin possessed magical powers? Or what if he used it in a duel to win over his wife? That would have been really fun to watch. I feel like the triple casting of the main character was a little confusing. I think they were trying to show the ethnic diversity of the settlement house, but it was confusing because at the beginning they specifically said he was from Poland. It might have been clearer to have the violin be passed down to people from different immigrant groups in that same settlement house. They ended on that note, but along the way it seemed like they wanted you to think it was the same Polish person. I think it was supposed to represent the diversity of Chicago as time went on, but because it was supposed to be the same person, the story didn't reflect specific things about African-American or Lantinx communities.

People who would like this show are people who like music, Chicago history, and runaway marbles. I really liked how the show had a powerful sense of community. It was a fun show.

Photos: Johnny Knight Photo

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