By John Knowles
Adapted by Nancy Gilsenan
Directed by Jonathan Berry
Steppenwolf for Young Adults
At Steppenwolf’s Upstairs Theatre
Friendship is tested in Knowles’ coming of age drama
Nancy Gilsenan’s adaptation of John Knowles’ novel, A Separate Peace, contains all the boyish antics of the 1940’s Northeastern prep school. We meet a host of high school juniors about to turn 17 as World War II rages. The boys are on the brink of being eligible for the draft as their safe, predictable world is about to turn gray with uncertainty.
Gene (Jake Cohen) and Finny (Damir Konjicija) are roommates and best friends. Finny is a free-spirit, charming dare-devil, athletic boy who is an aggressive leader and innovator. He sees the best in others and he always shapes the world to fit his desires. He challenges and dares his best friend Gene to do foolish things like jump into the river from a high tree branch.
Gene enjoys the challenges presented by Finny until he eventually becomes a rival to Finny. Gene’s learns to resend Finny’s dominance. During a dare, Gene shakes the tree branch causing Finny to fall before he was ready to jump–causing Finny to shatter his leg. Gene must come to grips with his actions. Finny is forever changed by the accident. Their friendship is tested with shocking consequences.
A Separate Peace is a classic coming of age drama that presents a vivid portrait of friendship, trust and betrayal in a changing world filled with war and peace.
Finny is a character you’ll not soon forget. Damir Konjicija gives Finny a robust energy with loads of charm and charisma while Jake Cohen deftly plays Gene with a honest naivete. Will Allan as the misfit, nerd leper, Chance Bone, as Brinker, Curtis M. Jackson, as Chet and Govind Kumar, as Bobby were fine as the classmates. Alan Wilder as Mr. Prud’homme completed the cast. Their are lessons in this effective play for all the teens struggling to cope with the dark side of adolescence. Kudos to Steppenwold for Young Adults for mounting this classic. I’m sure the teens will relate to this play.
At Steppenwolf Upstairs Theatre, 1650 N.Halsted, Chicago, IL,call 312-335-1650, www.steppenwolf.org, tickets $15 students, $20 adults, Tuesdays thru Fridays at 11am for school groups, Saturdays and Sundays at 11am, running time is 75 minutes without intermission, through March 19, 2010