By Rebecca Lenkiewicz
Directed by Elizabeth Carlin-Matz
Produced by Vitalist Theatre in association with Premiere Theatre of Performance
At the Theatre Building Chicago
W. B. Yeats inspired playwright Rebecca Lenkiewicz to write a funny and moving Irish family drama about the aspects of love.
Seldom do you see a new drama ripe with uniquely alive characters set in Ireland much less a funny, heartwarming and sentimental drama about love. What drives Lenkiewicz’s The Night Season are the wacky Kennedy family. After the mother abandons the family 15 years ago, the three sisters–Rose (Kelly Lynn Hogan)–the spinster; Maud (Eden Newmark)–the angst-ridden; and Judith (Vanessa Greenway) –the mother substitute and the scathing cynical drunken father, Patrick (Don Bender) are each searching for love. The grandmother, Lily (Mary O’Dowd in a fabulous performance)–hovers between eccentricity and dementia as she strives to find her last love before departing earth.
When an American actor arrives in Sligo, Ireland to play Yeats in a biofilm, he stays in the Kennedy’s cottage. John (Jared Fernley) quickly is attracted to Rose and he is infatuated with the charm of Lily. We witness how each character is yearning for a different kind of love and each are afraid of being hurt. The Kennedy’s are scared by the abandonment of the mother 15 years earlier. Pat drinks too much and reeks of cynicism, Lily fantasizes via TV.Rose throws herself at John while Judith decides to visit mother in London. She also rekindles her relationship with Gary Malone (Paul Dunckel) the cold chess player.
The action in Lenkiewicz’s well written play mixes raw humor with witty, almost poetic language as the drama aptly references several types of love. Love that abandons, love that rescues; the enduring and patient love; the passionate and elusive woman’s love; the recluse obsessed with a lost love together with the cry in the night and the redemptive and power of love. Lenkiewicz clever weaves her characters–giving each their moments–to find and experience the type of love that will fulfill each.
Don Bender and Mary O’Dowd anchor this excellent show that moves from dark humor to passionate encounters to fantasy as dreams are realized through too much drink and too much emotions. Kelly Lynn Hogan, Eden Newark and Vanessa Greenway were terrific as the sisters. Director Elizabeth Carlin-Metz’s tight flowing direction on Craig Choma’s multi-doors set made the 2 hours and 30 minute show an engaging evening of theatre. Sporting authentic Irish brogues, the cast was easily understandable as they mixed physical humor with richly evocative emotion rage.
You’ll enjoy the quirky Irish family and you’ll empathize with their search for love in this refreshingly new and surprisingly smart play. Rebecca Lenkiewicz is a talented playwright with a knack for characterization and a fine ear for language. The Night Season is a delight!
At the Theatre Building Chicago, 1225 W. Belmont Ave, Chicago, IL, call 773-327-5252, tickets $25, $20 for seniors/students, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 2 pm, running time is 2 hours, 45 minutes with intermission.