By Lillian Hellman
Directed by Kathy Scambiatterra
At The Artistic Home
Rarley produced Lillian Hellman drama highlights union and class struggles in 1030’s MidAmerica
The talented folks at The Artistic Home have a knack for finding stage worthy yet rarely produced works. They have mounted Lillian Hellman’s (1905-84) 1936 work, Days to Come in a tightly drawn and well acted production that fits nicely in their new space at the old Live Bait Theatre. Joseph Riley’s set design and Ellen Siedel’s 30’s costumes set the tone for Hellman’s drama about class struggle and union activists.
Written just after Hellman’s hit, The Children’s Hour, Days To Come closed on Broadway after only 8 performances reflecting the shaky union worries in 1930’s America. But Days to Come is still a Lillian Hellman play containing fully developed characters (especially strong women) who speak rivetingly caustic dialogue upon her clever plots. Hellman uses drama to highly her left-wing themes and her feminist agenda. her playwright craft is polished.
Days To Come is a harbinger of the film noir genre of a murder mystery. In this dark play, we witness illicit love, power struggles for the family business and for the establishment of worker’s rights as they strike for better wages. Days To Come is also filled with intrigue and murder pitting the striking workers against the company through gangster types serving as strike beakers. Filled with strong women, shaky businessman and colorful mobsters, the play unfolds like a 30’s B movie only it is written and acted superbly.
Hellman’s most charismatic character is Leo Whalen (Tim Patrick Miller), the labor organizer sent to the small Ohio town to teach the strikers about non-violent methods to achieve victory in their labor struggles. Andrew Rodman (Joe McCauley–who grows into the role) is the weakling CEO of the family business new threatened by the strike. His strong-willed wife Julie (Leavey Ballou in a powerful performance) is itching for adventure as she covers the labor organizer.
Days to Come explores the personal and political struggles for self-determination and the potential fallout that ensues when those without power begin to question and fight back against notions of class and gender. We see the workers and the Rodman women challenge their status.
The ensemble gave wonderfully complete and deeply nuances performances as each wholly enveloped their characters. Leavey Ballou, Tim Patrick Miller and Joe McCauley were particularly effective. Director Kathy Scambiatterra nicely paced the show to develop the dramatic tension most effectively. The folks at the Artistic Home have another gem to offer. Don’t miss this show. At $22 -$25 per ticket for an Equity production, the Artistic Home is an entertainment bargain.
At The Artistic Home, 3914N. Clark Street, Chicago, IL, call 866-811-4111, www.theartistichome.org, tickets $22 – $25, Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays & Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours, 15 minutes with intermission.