The American Plan

 

By Richard Greenbergrichard greenberg

Directed by Robin Witt

Produced by The Artistic Home

At Stage773, Chicago

“The world has a wish for you, and it’s never good,” says Eva Adler

“I cause happiness; that’s what I do,” says Nick Lockridge

Incisively written and superbly acted production of The American Plan is a summer treat sans the Castskills

The Artistic Home continues to mount rarely seen shows that are smart, well acted, and insightful. Robin Witt uses recorded pop tunes from the ear (circa 1959-60) to underscore scene changes in Richard Greenberg’s 1990, The American Plan, an  incisive look at how fears and personal entrapment can stifle the search for love. This psychologically compelling work features a collection of damaged and emotionally wrecked individuals struggling to escape their unhappiness. They are filled with fear- of loneliness, of abandonment and the loss of the  amenities of the good life. The don’t want to utilize the figurative  American plan-that is one price for both room and meals.  These folks are defined by their actions-their lies.

the artistic home

Set in the summer in 1959 on a lake in the Catskills, we meet teenaged Lili Adler (Margaret Katch) as she spends days yearning for her knight to rescue her form the clutches of her  domineering mother, Eva (Kathy Scambiattera). When the dashing Nick Lockridge (Nick Horst) swims across the lake from the resort, he and Lili began a quirky relationship that seems to be true love. Is Nick Lili’s knight to her rescue or is he an opportunist bent on securing  the good life?  Lili is an enigmatic contradiction who conjurers lies as both sport and cunningly calculatingly purposeful.  She feels trapped by her mother with whom she has a cantankerous  relationship. Only Olivia Shaw (Tonya Simmons), the family live-in maid and confidant buffers between Lili and Eva.

richard greenberg

Secrets abound here as the lies and manipulations (especially by Eva and Lili) color  the relationship between Lili and Nick. Eva guards Lili from herself and from suitors like Nick. The mixed motivations and the consequences of all the lies spread by all the characters make for an inevitable sad ending. When Gil Harbison (Tim Musachio) arrives, Nick’s past comes  to haunt him as Gil also has a plan for survival, the good life and for happiness with Nick. Eva, ever the astute observer, unmasks Gil and Nick as she struggles to maintain control of her damaged daughter.

All the manipulations render the play as a most engaging and smart drama.  We are enamored by the quirky Eva played with a worldly honesty and nuanced pain by Kathy Scamiatterra – who is one of the finest actress working the Chicago stage. Margaret Katch’s Lili and Nick Horst are most believable as enchanted lovers. Tonya Simmons as the stoic maid offered a subtle understanding of the foibles of these characters. Nick Horst gave his finest work to date as the young suitor.

richard greenberg

The work is a battle pitting optimism versus hopelessness; as intentions of the heart often fall to the consequences of lies. The self imposed trap of societal comfort and position often triumph over love. It looks at the price we pay and the lengths we go to hold on to our hearts. We see that “happiness is for other people,” according to Eva. These folks are doomed by their lies. This is a most thoughtful drama.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: July 22, 2012

For more info checkout The American Plan page at theatreinchicago.com

At Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago, IL, call 773-327-5252, www.stage773.com, tickets $28 – $32, senior/student $20 for Thursdays & Sundays, Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays  & Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 5pm, running time is 2 hours, 15 minutes with intermission, through August 26, 2012