Under the Blue Sky

under the blue sky  by david eldridge

By David Eldridge

Directed by Brad Akin

At Steep Theatre, Chicago

Powerful acting propels Eldridge’s glimpse into the private lives of teachers

British playwright David Eldridge has written an ode to high school teachers everywhere with Under the Blue Sky – now in its Midwest Premier at Steep Theatre. Free from  romantic sentimentality, Under the Blue Sky is part contemporary life commentary where a bomb can change life in an instant and part a love letter to those who dedicate themselves to teaching high school.

under the blue sky  by david eldridge

The play consists of three vignettes that each tell the hopes/dreams and desires of a generation of teachers. In the first scene, Nick (Michael Salinas) is cooking a gourmet dinner for Helen (Caroline Neff). Both are teachers in an intercity school.  Nick has a surprise announcement for Helen after dinner but Helen – believing and hoping its a proposal – anxiously pries the news from Nick as he cooks his prized chile. It seems that Nick wants to move up in teaching by leaving the intercity for the plush private schools in suburbia. With that move, he also wants to see less of Helen. Michael Salinas nicely depicts a sincere man who just isn’t ready of a long-term relationship. Caroline Neff is wonderful as the devastated, so in love teacher who is mad about Nick.

The second vignette finds the sexually adventurous Michelle (the frisky Julia Siple) physically attacking the shy, nerdy fellow teacher Graham (Alex Gilmor) after a faculty party. It seems that Graham is fresh meat since Michelle can’t have her first choice. When Graham can’t perform sexually he is both frustrated and humiliated. This funny, yet poignant scene demonstrates how frusrtation can take many forms. Alex Gilmor is particularly empathetic here.

The last scene finds tow veteran teachers separated by twenty years slowly becoming an item as they spend their holidays together. Anne (Melissa Riemer) and Robert (Jim Poole) are infatuated as each realizes that it’s never too late for love. Robert wants more than simply being a respected teacher – he wants a new, full-time life with Anne. This uplifting scene nicely dramatized two middle aged people who decide that they can have what they desire if they only have the will to go for it. Jim Poole is terrific as the man determined to get his lady.

Playwright David Eldridge keeps his teachers away from any possible teacher-student improprieties rather he focuses on how a teacher’s career can be so consuming that personal choices suffer. We understand and empathize with these six characters. You’s be hard pressed to find more truthful and emotionally drenching acting that theses six presented.  Steep Theatre sure has an ensemble of talented players. Under the Blue Sky demonstrates their skills.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: October 13, 2011

Jeff Recommended

For more info checkout the Under the Blue Sky page on www.theatreinchicago.com

At Steep Theatre, 1115 W. Berwyn, Chicago, IL, call 312-458-0722, www.steeptheatre.com, tickets $20 – $22, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, running time is 1 hour, 45 minutes without an intermission, through November 19, 2011