Goldfish – Route 66 Theatre

By John Kolvenbachgoldfish

Directed by Damon Kiely

Produced by Route 66 Theatre Company

At the Greenhouse Theatre, Chicago

Role reversal in child-parent dynamic vividly depicted

Playwright John Kolvenback (On An Average Day) likes to write about family dynamics. In his Chicago premiere of Goldfish, now in a wonderful acted production by Route 66 Theatre Company, Kolvenbach flips child rearing around so that the child raise the parent. We meet 19 year old Albert (a strong performance by Alex Stage) who has organized all the affairs necessary for his father and their household to survive while he attends college in Vermont. Leo (the terrific Francis Guinan) is the middle aged father, Leo, who has a problem. He is an uncontrolled addicted gambler. The ponies are his fixation. But since Albert has all the necessities of life organized and prescribed, Leo should do nicely. As long as he stops gambling. He promises Albert he is in control. Albert goes off to  college.


Since Albert has a basic dislike for the rich kids who populate the college, he becomes a loner – eating alone and spending loads of time in the library, including Friday evenings. Lucy (fine work by Tyler Meredith), a smart co-ed notices and talks to Albert trying to make a friend. After the two become an item, we see Lucy’s back story.


Lucy has an obnoxious mother, Margaret (effective performance by Shannon Cochran) is a divorce who lounges around in her bathrobe wearing pearls while drinking martinis. She is a cynic with loads to say about most things, especially about her daughter Lucy and her failed marriage. Lucy goes to college to escape the wrath of her mother.

After a whirlwind courtship, Albert decides he wants to marry Lucy so he makes a visit to Margaret to ask for Lucy’s hand. That confrontation demonstrates both Albert’s determination and Margaret’s apprehension.  That scene is funny and heartfelt. Both Alex Stage and Shannon Cochran are marvelous.

But when the college’s dean gets a phone call from Leo, Albert rushes home to find Leo has gambled all the money set up by him to run the household and Albert’s college tuition. Albert’s plans crash as he leaves college and doesn’t get Margaret’s permission to marry Lucy. Lucy is baffled by Albert’s actions.


I’ll not say more so not to spoil the resolution. But eventually both Leo, Albert and Lucy do the right thing. We see how difficult it is for children to leave dependent parents yet, if love really exists. the parents may do what is necessary. Francis Guinan delivers Leo’s final speech to Albert so powerfully that we feel his pain. Marvelous work by Guinan who plays flawed characters with heartfelt emotions. He is a treasure to watch on stage!

Alex Stage, as Albert, is the anchor here as he presents a young man struggling to succeed in life. He is strong and knows what he wants. Tyler Meredian and Shannon Cochran delivered excellent performances.

Goldfish is a tightly written, excellently stage (and paced) 80 minute comic drama that  speaks to how and when family dynamics change as children must leave the nest. Goldfish is a beautiful story with loads of heart. Don’t miss this little gem.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago pod cast

Date Reviewed: June 21, 2015

Jeff Recommended

For more info checkout the Goldfish page at

At the Greenhouse Theatre, 2257 N. Lincoln, Chicago, IL