Directed by Si Osborne
At The Gift Theatre, Chicago
Neighborhood drama focuses on changing ethics
Set in the Jefferson Park-Edison Park Northwest Side of Chicago, William Nedved’s Northwest Highway, (now in a world premiere at The Gift Theatre), is a drama about the generational changes found in the mostly white working class city workers neighborhood where cops, firemen, city managers, and teachers live due to residence requirements by the City of Chicago.
Utilizing Adam Lucas Venes’ back porch-backyard set aptly depicting an aging bungalow, we find John Patrick Moore (Boyd Harris), a third generation Chicago Police officer drinking beer with his cop partner Terry Donnelly (James D. Farruggio). Tension between the two revolves around loyalty, trust and honesty as a work incident strains their relationship. Moore is a college educated idealistic cop while Donnelly is a practical guy just struggling to survive an ugly divorce. Each have a different take on ethics.
Moore, himself divorced, is dating Rayna Grotowski (Diane Mair) a neighborhood waitress. The two seemed in love but when Rayna announces that she’s pregnant, Moore easily decides to “do the right thing” by marrying her. Moore has trouble making decisions. Should he sell his family house so he can start fresh with Rayna? Should he take a promotion to detective or should he stay a beat cop with Donnelly as his partner?
A visit by his aunt, Joyce Brooks (Alexandra Main) puts pressure on Moore to sell his house and have Joyce be his realtor despite a promise to his old high school pal, Colin Daly (Gabriel Franken) to list with him. Moore stumbles with decision making as he appears overwhelmed. When he realizes that Rayna may have deliberately become pregnant to lure him into marriage, he calls off the engagement but he still wants to dump his old home.
Smart writing and fine performances make this refreshing drama seem real. The location references are accurate (I did live in the area for many years.) The character of John Patrick Moore aptly depicts the new generation of Chicago Police Officers. Boyd Harris’ performance honestly reaches the moral and ethical dilemmas confronting today’s cops. His conservative religious beliefs are also strained by Rayna’s pregnancy. Playwright William Nedved also nails the awkwardness of a gay man living in a familiar yet unwelcoming conservative neighborhood. Franken is terrific as the near self-hating Colin.
Without giving away too much of the plot, let me state that Northwest Highway is a worthy 85 minute one act show that captures the changing attitudes of the residences of an otherwise static city enclave. The sense of neighborhood acting as an anchor symbolizes both the status quo and the inhibition toward change that new thinkers such as Moore desperately need. He must get ride of his old house and he must not let his true love get away. See this play to understand each character’s choices.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: June 9, 2011
At The Gift Theatre, 4802 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL, call 773-283-7071, tickets $20 – $25 -$30, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 7:30 pm, sundaes at 2:30 pm, running time is 85 minutes without intermission, through September 11, 2011