REVIEWSREVIEWS BYTheatre ReviewsTom Williams


By Samuel D. Huntervictory gardens theatre

Directed by Joanie Schultz

At Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, Chicago

Slice of life set in a retirement home moves in circles

After playwright Samuel D. Hunter’s hit, The Whale, at Victory Gardens, two things happened to him: one, he was awarded the MacArthur “genius” grant of $625,000 and two, his play, Rest, is now showing at Victory Gardens Theater. One has great value, the other questionable merit.

victory gardens theatreSet in a retirement home in Northern Idaho, Rest finds a quirky lot of stereotypical average folks struggling with living-dying;  working-unemployment;  purpose-chance – a being played out at a closing retirement home where the residents now only number three and the staff is down to four workers. Add a winter blizzard and an automatic glass door that opens on its own and we have the makings of either a mystery or a contrived shallow plot.

Unfortunately, the shallow prevails. We meet Etta (Mary Ann Thebus),  spry senior and devoted wife to her 91 year-old  husband, Gerald (William J. Norris)-who suffers from extreme dementia. We see Gerald rant oblivious to who is around him. Sadly, we learn that he was a famed music professor. Tom, (Ernest Perry, Jr.), the the other resident who everyone believes is deaf.

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The staff is a collection of misfits, each with there own foibles. Ginny (McKenzie Chinn) is a nurse who can’t conceive due to cancer. Faye (Amanda Drinkall) is the nurse and high school friend of Ginny) who id filled with guilt (from an incident you’ll discover) – she is looking for a purpose in her life so she agrees to carry Ginny’s child. But she now has some doubts after being in the second-trimester. The home’s director (Steve Key) is a self-doubting and self-loathing guy who can’t make up his mind if he wants to be an architect or work as a store clerk at Macy’s.  Amazingly, with only three days before closing, Ken (Matt Farabee) is hired to cook for the home. Ken is an emotionally insecure teen who has trouble dealing with death and his only cooking experience is a couple of days at Taco Bell.

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Not much happens here once we meet all the misfit staff and we see the home’s routine. But a snow storm and the apparent disappearance  of Gerald happens, the home is in crisis.  Of course, a power outage and frozen doors (and the automatic door with a mind of its own) lock the seven folks in. Thus, each feel the need to spill their souls to one another. Ken’s hyper religious and emotional insecurity; Jeremy’s weirdly quirkiness are curiously unbelievable. The fact that Ginny becomes irate when Faye shares a glass of wine with Etta and now Faye doubts the wisdom of carrying a child for Ginny, the tone grows darker.

We learn much about Etta and Gerald’s life and career as we wonder where is now. Only Tom seems to be a no-nonsense person when the crisis unfolds. I’ll not say more so not to spoil things.

The reaction and the resolution of this contrived story with the preposterous characters sure left me scratching my head.  I learned what happened but since I only believed that Tom, Etta and Gerald were real, the rest of the characters here came off  as playwright creatures not to be beloved. The play is shallow enough for me to conclude that it isn’t really about much. After spending two hours with Rest, I left the theatre wanting more. What salvaged the play for me was Mary Ann Thebus and Ernest Perry, Jr.’s fine performances.

Somewhat Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: September 19, 2014

Jeff Recommended

For more info checkout the Rest page at

At Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln, Chicago,IL. call 773-871-3000,, tickets $20 -$50, Tuesdays thru Saturdays at 7:30, Sundays at 3 pm, matinees on Saturdays at 4pm, running time is 2 hours with intermission, through October 12, 2014