HARD TIMES

The Have and The Have Nots

lookingglass_hardtimes17_4090cliz-lauren_jj-phillips-cordelia-dewdneyThe unfortunate ones, the disadvantaged, the poor people who are thought to be useless for nothing more than menial task have been a part of our society since the dawn of mankind. Charles Dickens lived as one considered a rubbish strain of humanity and although he rose to become a prominent literary figure, he never forgot those considered as lower class citizens.

In Dickens novel, Hard Times, which has been formatted into a featured play at The Lookingglass Theatre, he discusses his passion for helping those forgotten in an industrial smokestack factory in Smoke-choked Coketown.

Hard Times is a story where a battle brewing between the wealthy and lower class workers, commonly referred to as "The Hands," where underprivileged individuals are forced to work extremely long hours for little pay; however, education is the key to a better life but few have the option to be educated. If you lacked a solid education and proper job skills, your chances of living the golden spoon life of turtle soup and venison were as dim as the smokestack pits of hell in Coketown.

One can wonder can something good come from the so-called dirt of the city and can low class citizens become educated to be sophisticated and knowledgeable if raised properly?

Hard Times is a carnival infused play with a lot of colorful characters. We are introduced to Thomas Gradgrind (Raymond Fox), a wealthy, retired merchant who believes that the philosophy of rationalism is the key to success. This is the bases of learning that he frames his life and his children's life around the figures of facts. Facts, facts, facts are the decorum he raises his children Louisa (Cordelia Dewdney), and Tom (JJ Phillips) by and he never allows them to stray from these principles and he never allows them to imagine a life without facts; for facts was the only way you can succeed in this world.

lookingglass_hardtimes17_4537cliz-lauren_nathan-hosner-julie-marshall-audrey-anderson-louise-lamson-raphael-cruz-david-catlinTo prove that these facts work, he took into his care a kind and very imaginative school girl by the name of Sissy Jupe (Audrey Anderson), who gives the town a ray of hope after her father, who is a circus entertainer, disappears. She eventually starts to care for his younger children as Gradgrind works with her and his children to train them to become his pride and joy so that they can succeed as a rational line of mechanical personalities of mindless souls with no hope or imagination.

As time passes on, Tom becomes an apprentice at the Bounderby bank, however, he seems totally depended on Louisa but they both struggled to understand their purpose in life. Although Louisa struggles with deep internal confusion, feeling as though she is missing something important in her life, she is persuaded to marry a man that she does not love, who happens to be her father friend Josiah Bounderby (Troy West).He is more than twice her age nonetheless he is a wealthy factory owner and banker who can take care of her.

Bounderby proclaims to be a self-made man who seems to despise low-class people. He continuously shares his story of how his mother abandoned him in the gutter as an infant. Josiah treats Louisa, as a child but someone comes alone seeking to make her feel like a woman again and his name is Mr. Harthouse (Nathan Hosner).

Charles Dickens has a way of allowing you to experience the very depth of the soul of the character in his storytelling. Such a character is brought to light the impoverished "Hand" one of the lowest laborers in Coketown's factory by the name of Stephen Blackpool. He struggles with his love for Rachael, another poor factory worker who he is unable to marry because he is already married to a horrible, drunken woman who disappears for months and even years at a time. Stephen went to Bounderby to ask about a divorce but quickly learned it wasn't available to the poor and informed that only the wealthy can obtain this privilege.

Artistic Director Heidi Stillman brings forth the adaptation of the Dickensian carnival of characters in Hard Timeslookingglass_hardtimes17_4881cliz-lauren_amy-j-carle-troy-west-raymond-fox-audrey-anderson-david-catlin-nathan-housner-raphael-cruz-1 with hope, grace, and dignity. We recommend that you see this play so that you can get the "facts" about the privilege and the disadvantaged in Coketown.
The cast includes:

David Catlin (Stephen and Sleary)
Raymond Fox (Mr. Gradgrind, Sissy's Father and Slackbridge)
Louise Lamson (Rachael, Mrs. Gradgrind, and Scherezade through Dec 17)
Troy West (Mr. Bounderby)
Atra Asdou (Rachael, Mrs. Gradgrind, and Scherezade beginning Dec19)
Audrey Anderson (Sissy)
Amy J. Carle (Mrs. Sparsit, Drunk Woman and Pufflerumpus)
Raphael Cruz (Bitzer and Le Papillon)
Cordelia Dewdney (Louisa)
Marilyn Dodds Frank( Mrs. Pegler)
Nathan Hosner (Mr. Harthouse, Mr. M'Choakumchild, and Kidderminster)
JJ Phillips (Tom)

Lookingglass Theatre Company Presents
Its Award-Winning, Circus-Infused Production of
Hard Times
Adapted and Directed by Ensemble Member Heidi Stillman
From the Book by Charles Dickens
In Association with The Actors Gymnasium

October 4, 2017 – January 14, 2018

Filed under: ChicagoNow

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