Co-created and directed by Erica Weiss
Produced by Route 66 Theatre Company
At Theater Wit, Chicago, IL.
“Chicago is Chicago because of its water.”
– Noah, A Twist of Water
A Twist of Water is, like the vast majority of plays throughout history, not revolutionary; it is not transcendental or avant-garde or envelope pushing. What it is, just like the vast majority of plays throughout history, is trying to tell a story – trying to present to the audience a tale that will amuse and affect them, and offers, ultimately, a catharsis. It is definitely a modern play: soliloquies – or rather parts of a lecture, directed at the audience – transition between scenes, this breaking of the fourth wall not offering, as in Shakespeare, a furthering of the plot, but rather is used as metaphor and history lesson. It is a play about Chicago, and yet not; it is a story about those stories that populate the city’s metallic, maternal pastiche.
It is a story of a gay teacher, his adopted black daughter, and their attempts to recover from the tragedy that befell them.
Noah, portrayed by the subtle and dexterous Stef Tovar, is a husband and father; he and his daughter, Jira (the vivacious Falashay Pearson) are still grieving from the death of Richard, Noah’s partner and husband of 22 years and Jira’s father of 17. Jira decides to seek out her birthmother (Lili-Anne Brown) in her yearning for more family and also for the reasons she was given up for adoption (a fact that she is not at all bitter about). Noah thinks this a poor decision and their already-strained relationship becomes brittle. While this is Jira’s way of coping, Noah, almost 40, is considering a new relationship, with fellow teacher Liam; he is a much younger man, with the cynicism and wit of a person of our generation for whom Teach for America accidentally became a career (played very well by Alex Hugh Brown).
I found the characters compelling and vivid; my companion, who is of a generation affected by more puritanical parenting, was shocked at how vicious Jira could be to her father – I took it more or less for granted. He saw Liam as too-cynical-too-young – I recognized in him a common attitude of our generation. The scenes between the two men were relatively effortless, with Tovar inhabiting his role utterly, and Brown only very, very occasionally – rarely – reciting a line. Their dynamic was playful, charming, and en-kindling.
The script could be tighter: the lectures, at first a very interesting device, felt slightly overused by the end of the first act; the second, however, used it more sparingly, and regained its stride. The water metaphor, being important enough to the playwright that it gave the play its title, was not emphasized enough. And the parallels between the history of Chicago, given in the soliloquies, and the actions on stage could be punched up, but are much stronger than the water metaphor.
All-told, this is a solid piece of work, well-written, incendiary acted, with well-crafted sets and good use of projected backdrops, and wonderful, ambient/shoe-gaze/indie transition music (not to mention Michigan artist Sufjan Stevens’ album Come On! Feel The Illinoise! playing pre-show and intermission). It is well worth the time and money to see these four actors making this stage piece, a sort of love letter to Chicago, come to life.
Reviewed on 2.21.11.
For full show information, check out the A Twist of Water page at Theatre In Chicago.
At Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago, IL; call 773-975-8150 or visit www.theaterwit.org/boxoffice; tickets $25, $15 for students; Thursday-Saturday at 7:30, Sunday at 2:30; running time 120 minutes with intermission; through March 20.