Everything is Illuminated

 

nest theatre
Everything is Illuminated

Adapted from the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer

Directed by Devon de Mayo

At Next Theatre, Evanston

“No-one arrives on the face of the Earth from nowhere. We’re each the latest page in a book

stretching back, and an inspiration fro pages to come.”

-Jonathan

” I wanted to remove your father from everything that was shameful. But I discovered

that shame follows you like an infected dog, and i infected your father with a variation of the strain.”

-Grandfather

A combination of humor and pathos fuels personal search for one’s roots

In Simon Block’s telling adaptation of Jonathan Safran For’s novel, Everything is Illuminated,  a 20something American Jewish boy travels to the Ukraine with only a yellowing photograph in hand. He is Jonathan (Brad Smith) and he is in search of the woman, Augustine, who saved his grandfather form death at the hands of the invading Nazis. Jonathan is a fledgling writer who dreams of what is family’s heritage must have been from their roots dating back to 1791 in the Ukraine. Believing that he is a product of what and who has preceded him, Jonathan  meets his three guides – Alex (Alex Goodrich) and his Grandfather (William J. Norris) and the invisible dog Sammy Davis, Jr. Jr.

Alex is a contemporary of  Jonathan but he has a limited command of English and Grandfather only speaks Ukrainian. In a series of humorous early scenes we see Jonathan, Alex, Grandfather and the dog as each gets adjusted to traveling together.  They travel to Lutsk but Jonathan wants to find the shtetl Trohinbrod where his grandfather left in 1943 but Grandfather strongly refuses to acknowledge ever existed. Jonathan pushes Alex to aid him in getting grandfather to drive on to find the lost village.

Eventually the group comes upon a small house with an Old Woman (Ann Whitney) sitting on the front porch. Alex approaches her with Jonathan’s old photo. She reacts… Rather than  spoil the  details, let me state that the tone of the piece becomes filled with pathos as the Old Woman and Grandfather emotionally relive the horrors of the Nazi invasion in 1943. In several moving scenes, Everything is Illuminated becomes a memory piece that is powerfully performed by Ann Whitney as she tells of surviving while William J. Norris evokes his shame and guilt as those horrors are remembered.  Mixed throughout the play are Jonathan’s dreams and writing about the family history in Trohinbrod vividly played by H.B. Ward as Yankel and Saha Gioppo as Brod.

This is a wonder, at time whimsical and eventually heart-wrenching. theatrical event. We are deeply moved by this work as we accompany Jonathan on his quixotic journey in search of the past that he discovers in an unexpected manner. Alex Goodrich is terrific as the charming English-challenged guide while William J. Norris and Ann Whitney explode with emotions. This is a journey that you’ll want to take.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: February 28, 2013

Jeff Recommended

For more info checkout the Everything is Illuminated page at theatreinchicago.com

At next Theatre at the Noyes Cultural Center, 927 Noyes Street, Evanston, Il, call 847-475-1875, www.nexttheatre.org, tickets $30 – $40, Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays & Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 2 pm, running time is 2 hours, 10 minutes with intermission, through March 31, 2013