Part I: That Hopey Changey Thing
Directed by Louis Contey
At TimeLine Theatre. Chicago
The Apply plays are a unique entrance into the voices of the people about our political landscape.
Play 1 That Hopey Changey Thing
“Summary: That Hopey Changey Thing is set on November 2, 2010. Before the play begins, Uncle Benjamin Apple (Mike Nussbaum), a well-known actor, has had a heart attack, which sent him into a coma. When he came out of the coma, he had serious amnesia. By the beginning of the play he has retired, and moved into his niece Barbara’s (Janet Ulrich Brooks) home in Rhinebeck, New York.”
Richard Apple (David Parks), the only brother, is a politically connected lawyer who works for NY state attorney General Andrew Cumo, whom he despises. Sister Jane (Mechelle Moe), a published writer, and her new boyfriend Tim (PJ Powers) arrive on this midterm election day to the family home in upstate Rhinebeck, NY. Uncle Benjamin joins the family for diner as they await sister Marian (Juliet Hart) as she finishes her local politicking.
That Hopey Chnagey Thing is playwright Richard Nelson’s Chekhovian styled family drama that gives audiences a realistic glimpse into the heart of human behavior in the context of the family. Through naturalistic dialogue (Nelson has a terrific ear for the way people speak), Nelson uses realistic passive-aggression and the inevitable opening of old wounds as the family’s struggle to keep civility is effectively played out with looks and non-verbal gestures. Besides the midterm elections and the state of the country, the Apples speak of both the state of Uncle Benjamin as he struggles (with Barbara’s devoted help) with acute amnesia.
The talk is glib, political, a tad cynical, yet always honest biting. Richard is the jaded one; Barbara the realistic one; Marian the activist; Jane the philosophical one, while Benjamin is the pure one ‘living in the now.’ Tim, the actor, is trying to blend in with the family while attempting to communicate acting wisdom from Benjamin. Thoughts on the nature and advocacy of theatre are highlighted. Janet Brooks and David Parks lead this terrific ensemble.
The lively exchanges quickly engage us with Nelson’s sharp dialogue. Personalities are defined, old gripes emerge, and the spirited political exchanges are presented as this sophisticated family engage in debates on election night. Director Lou Contey has a superb ensemble that smoothly inhabit their characters with honesty. That Hopey Changey Thing is an ensemble gem that thoroughly entertains as it engrosses us into the Apple family. As does the four play series ( “Play 2 Sweet and Sad and Play 4 Regular Singing) The Apple Plays are thought by Richard Nelson: ‘These plays are about the need to listen, the need for theater and … the need to be in the same room together.”
I can’t not recommend these Apple plays enough: That Hopey Changey Thing is 1 hour and 40 minutes of delight as it stands as a specially unique theatrical experience that, together with Sorry can become two enchanting evening of theatre. See them separately in either order to do a marathon on weekends -but-see these two major plays by one of the finest living playwrights.
Play 3 Sorry
“Summary: Sorry is set on November 6, 2012 (Presidential Election Night). Richard has been on a lengthy business trip to England; Barbara and Marian have been waiting for his return before moving Benjamin to an assisted living home, a move which Barbara has been resisting. Marian continues to share Barbara’s house with Barbara and Benjamin. Once again, The Apple family gathers but this time it is for a dreaded and possibly dangerous event. Benjamen’s amnesia has led him to lose all inhibitions about sensual propitiates to the extent that he has made uncomfortable advances on Barbara.
As he does in all the Apple plays, Nelson weaves political thought into family exchanges with playful and smart references to the power and usefulness of live theatre to comment and enrich our lives. Mike Nussbaum is terrific as the lost elder caught up in his forgetfulness. He leads a stellar cast through the Apple family adventures. We hear our own voices as Nelson empowers his people to voice out thoughts, concerns, and opinions. In all the Apple plays, Nelson give a wide spectrum of ideas a voice. At 1 hour and 40 minutes, our seat at the Apple family’s table is cherished. All that food got me hungry.
Be sure to take in both of the Apple plays – they are superbly acted, smartly written as they give us the people’s voice that is surly more honest (and accurate) that all those mouthy pundits on TV ans Online
Both plays are Highly Recommended
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: January 25, 2015
Both plays Jeff Recommended
For more info checkout the Apple Plays page at theatreinchicago.com
At TimeLine theatre, 615 W. Wellington, Chicago, IL, call 773-281-8463, www.timelinetheatre.com, tickets $30 – 52,in repertory, Tuesday thru Sundays, running time for both plays is 1 hour 40 minutes each, through April 19, 2015