A Second Chance at Life That Was First Misused

caroline-neff-krystal-ortiz-matt-farabee-kirsten-fitzgerald-ryan-kitley-photo-by-liz-laurenThe people in your life have a way of changing its destiny before you come to an age to where you understand that it's not going the way you intended. Lettie at Victory Gardens Theater is such a play where a young woman whose life that was derailed as a child, gets caught trafficking drugs and receives prison time.

After serving seven years for her crime and being released for good behavior, she tries to reconnect with her children that are being raised by her half-sister. But before she can begin her new life, she has to re-acclimate into society by moving to a half-way house and a job re-entry program where she is being trained as a welder.

While studying during her apprentice period, she meets Minnie, another female with an unfortunate past. Minnie, played by Charin Alvarez who adds to the realism of the play, and she is also a calming, comic help to Lettie seeing life as it is and can be and not focus so much of her problematic past.

The name Lettie means joy, but her life was nothing but sorrow. With a childhood that was negatively affected by her drug attic parents, which paved her ill-fated pathway of recklessness, degradation, and depression that aided in her becoming a teenage parent after being molested in her home; seem to be fighting her way to regaining her identity and ultimately her kids.

Life after being incarcerated is difficult enough, but Lettie now has to fight against her half-sister and her husband to even see her kids. The sister's unwillingness to allow Lettie to visit with her children made her frustrated which leads to her feeling isolated and insecure when she finally get a chance to see them.

charin-alvarez-caroline-neff-photo-by-liz-lauren-1Her battle with seeing her kids only becomes more traumatic when she tells her half-sister who looks at Lettie's children as her own, that she wants to take them out of the Christian home she has raised them in to live with her. This revelation starts a confrontation which only gets more troubling when Lettie's son doesn't connect with her after feeling neglected when she left him as a child.

Boo Killebrew's Lettie is a brilliant portrayal of how difficult life is for those seeking acceptance and how that desire to be accepted can cause you to rush into making mistakes as you seek approval. It vividly opens the door to a world most would prefer to avoid and shows us the layers of recidivism a person with a checkered past has to endure when seeking to just, me normal.

Chay Yew, who joined Victory Gardens Theater in 2011 as artistic director and is a recipient of the Obie and DramaLogue Awards is also an accomplished and respected playwright was in his element with directing this play. Its broken scenes where Lettie moved through was seamless.

And then there is Caroline Neff. Her ability to embody any character she plays is outstanding, and her performance as Lettie was genuinely realistic which made Lettie someone you felt you knew and wanted to root for. Her vivid enactment of a woman seeking acceptance while facing the reality check about how she is viewed by others, her children; including her thoughts about herself as a victim living within the prison of her past is phenomenal.

Another great performance was that of Matt Farabee who played Lettie's son, River. He was so believable as a wounded, suicidal-like troubled teen that was deprived a normal life. His belligerent behavior gave credence to the real-life struggles teens face when thrust into uncomfortable situations; unwilling to see that Lettie experienced the same.

caroline-neff-matt-farabee-photo-by-liz-laurenLettie is a compelling story about incarceration and how gender, race, and poverty can affect motherhood when women are dealing with issues of re-entering the workforce. It also provides an in-depth mental perspective that women who have been incarcerated face when seeking to regain their children. This 90-minute play will make you think, laugh and cry and touch your heart.

We highly recommend that you see this incredible, real to life performance at Victory Gardens Theater.

The cast Include:

Charin Alvarez (Minnie).
Matt Farabee (River)
Kirsten Fitzgerald (Carla)
Ryan Kitley (Frank)
Caroline Neff (Lettie)
Krystal Ortiz (Layla)

Victory Gardens Theater Presents The World Premiere of
By Boo Killebrew
Directed By: Chay Yew
April 6 - May 6, 2018

Filed under: ChicagoNow

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