By Ellen Fairey
Directed by Matthew Miller
At Profiles Theatre
Nicely written, quirky comedy/drama features strong performances
Playwright Ellen Fairey (Girl, 20) uses Chicago’s oldest cemetery, Graceland Cemetery (Irving Park & Clark) as the backdrop for her wonderfully written and supremely well acted world premiere comedy/drama: Graceland. Fairey is a welcomed new voice whose ability to tell a worthy, dramatic story with ample dose of very funny lines engages us from the start. Her humor emerges from her quirky, memorable characters and from their situations. Yet the humor in Graceland never diminishes the dramatic power of her play.
Graceland is the story of four lonely Chicagoans whose lives collide one August weekend while the Blue Angels airshow is in town. As the Navy jets buzz the skies from dawn to dusk, estranged brother Sam (Eric Burgher in a understated rage) and his sister Sara (a powerful performance from Brenda Barrie) try to make sense of their father’s recent suicide. Sara’s one night stand with Joe (Darrell W. Cox), an aging lothario, brings further trouble when Joe’s teenaged son, Miles (fabulous truthful performance from a real 15 year old high schooler, Jackson Challinor).
When Sara is seduced by the boyish charm of Miles and when Sam and Sara realize that Anna (Somer Benson)–Sam’s girlfriend was sleeping with their father–the play’s action presents four lonely and desperate souls looking for that human connection. Fairey shows how strangers can be tender and how some bad decisions can have unexpected benefits. This play has some new twists on human relationships and the effects of death on families.
There are stellar performances from reliable actors such as Darrel W. Cox and Eric Burgher. Brenda Barrie is outstanding as the lonely suffering Sara. However, young newbie Jackson Challinor steals much of the show with his cute, charming and totally honest portrait of the mercurial teen. Challinor has good stage instincts and fine internal naturalness. He is someone to keep an eye on.
Graceland mixes comedy, rich characters with an off-beat look into loneliness that unfolds as a terrific night at the theatre. Profiles Theatre once again demonstrates their acumen as one of the finest storefront theatre troupes in Chicago. Graceland is a ‘must see’ show.
At Profiles Theatre, 4147 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL, call 773-549-1815, tickets $25 – $30, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 7 pm, running time is 90 minutes without intermission, through September 13, 2009