The Trinity River Plays: Regina Taylor's Ambitious Trilogy Makes its Chicago Debut at the Goodman Theatre.

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Iris (Karen Aldridge) gets a lesson in beauty from her cousin Jasmine (Christiana Clark) in the first of the three plays, Jar Fly.

Chicago, Thursday, January 27, 2011. There's a lot going on in Regina Taylor's The Trinity River Plays that kick off 2011 at Chicago's Goodman Theatre.  The The Trinity River Plays are a trilogy penned by Taylor when she was sorting through things after the death of her mother. She recalls, "I was inspired by the storms that we go through in our lives, and how we navigate through those storms." It is perhaps Taylor's most ambitious undertaking to date--exploring human relationships especially between mothers and daughters and asking more questions than can answered in one evening. Not unlike the extensive garden that surrounds the set--the 3-hour plus trilogy could use some careful pruning.  With this said, there are many redeeming qualities to the work. 

"Trinitys" overall story will cause you to ask questions about your own
life. The six person cast is outstanding.  Chicago actresses Karen
Aldridge (Iris) is the glue that holds the trilogy together.  Christina
Clark (Cousin Jasmine) is sexy, funny and sad as the drug shooting cousin who
tries to teach Iris how to "loosen up." Samuel Ray Gates (Jack) is a
force to watch--charismatic and good looking--he shines as both young
Jack and the 17-year-older Jack. Penny Johnson Jerald (Rose) as the selfless mom is an important part of the story both on and off stage.  Making his Goodman debut, Jefferson A. Russell does justice to two roles as the slimy Uncle Ray Earl and Frank, the sensitive, intelligent husband of Iris. Jacqueline Williams (Daisy) is likable and believable as the loving mom of Jasime, sister or Rose, Aunt of Iris and wife of Earl Ray--she is a good sounding board for all.  Set Designer, Todd Rosenthal's stage is picture perfect--with attention paid to every detail.  Director Ethan McSweeny knows his way around the theater with nearly 60 productions under his belt.  His work has won him praise from Broadway to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and everywhere in-between.  Chekhov, Albee, Euripides, Shaw--and now Taylor--McSweeny has done it all.

The three plays explore the relationships of the characters in a small Texas town near the Trinity River in Texas, outside of Dallas. In the first play, Jar Fly, it's 1978 and Iris is celebrating her 17th birthday while the cidacas are completing their 17 year life cycle.  Nerdy Iris is writing, writing and writing focused on college and her future. Mother Rose is away earning money for Iris' college education.  Cousin Jasmine gets Iris to try some whiskey with disastrous results.

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Iris (Karen Aldridge) (center couch) returns home to find nothing has changed in the past 17 years as (l to r) Daisy (Jacqueline Williams), Rose (Penny Johnson Jerald) and Jasmine (Christiana Clark) dance around the house.

The second play, Rain, takes place 17 years later when Iris returns home.  She has become a successful writer in New York.  She is looking to home for a temporary sanctuary but instead must confront her inner self and her past.

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Iris (Karen Aldridge) listens as Daisy (Jacqueline Williams) revisits her past relationships.

The third play, Ghoststory, takes place one year later.  Iris is struggling with many issues as she comes to a realization that she must confront the demons from her past if she wants to move on with her life.

Tickets.
Tickets to The Trinity River Plays are $25 to $78.  They can be purchased online at GoodmanTheatre.org; at the box office at 170 N. Dearborn or by phone at 312 443 3800. 

Discount Tickets.
If available, half-price mezzanine tickets can be purchased at the box off at noon on the day of the performance; or online at 10am using the promo code MEZZTIX.  Students with a valid student ID are eligible for $10 rear mezzanine tickets, if available, starting at 12 noon at the box office on the day of performance.

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