By David Alex
Directed by Maggie Speer
Produced by Polarity Ensemble in association
with Azusa Productions
At the Greenhouse Theater, Chicago
Psychological memory drama filled with rich characters and thought-provoking themes
David Alex is a well known local Chicago theatre enthusiast and accomplished playwright who has written several excellent works over the years. His latest, Adrift, may be his finest to date. It is both an ‘idea play’ and a family drama; it uses nautical terms as well as theoretical mathematical references all of which blend nicely due to tight direction by Maggie Speer. Adrift covers loads of ideas and action in its 80 minute time. David Alex has much to say about math, father-son relationships and forgiveness. He has developed a super likable nerd like character with hint of the author 35 years ago. Isaac Abbas (the talented Colin Henry Fewell) is a young math teacher reliving memories about his father, his first teaching gig and his learning to relate more than geometry to his students. He recalls getting Tom (Eric Ryan Swanson) to reconcile with his father (Gary Murphy). Issac vividly remembers his Naval officer father Jack (James Eldrenkamp) who taught him duty, honor and commitment.
Adrift nicely moves back and forth in time allowing us to see, from Isaac’s memory of growing up with his father and the haunting remembrance of dad’s battle with post traumatic stress disorder. We see Issac role changing as he moves from devoted admiring son to a nurturing son bent on helping his father deal with his war related disorder. Alex’s play structure says much and covers the two family story in a compact, often humorous and poignant one act that has a fresh perspective on how sons learn to appreciate their fathers and how fathers eventually learn to listen to their sons. They learn from each other. Definitions of truth, loyalty, honor and accountability are examined. The motif of the sea is richly presented with quotes for Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
Ultimately, Adrift deals with Issac’s search for an answer to “How can I forgive myself for the choice I made?” That search leads to examination of this question: Do our life experiences determine their definitions or does our definition of them direct our life? Adrift has some thought provoking answers while being an entertaining work. The sophistication of Adrift allows us to meet and relate to a quirky math nerd through an honest and haunting memory of the father-son dynastic. Alex shows his talent for weaving philosophical concepts into human dynamics. He also dramatizes the troubled effects of post traumatic stress disorder on a family.
James Eldrenkamp intensely play the stressed naval commander and Colin Henry Fewell anchors the show as he presents Issac as a unique genius with quirky tendencies. These two gave outstanding performances. For a fresh look at father-son relations –Adrift – will sail directly into your heart.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: July 27, 2012
For more info checkout the Adrift page at Theatreinchicago.com
At the Greenhouse Theater, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, IL, call 773-404-7336, www.greenhousetheater.org, tickets $20, $12 students, seniors and industry, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 7:30, Sundays at 2;30 pm, through August 26, 2012