The Black Ship Company presents the Chicago premiere of FOREVERENDIA. During a snowstorm, three kids escape reality in a shared fantasy. Nim transports her new friends to her made-up land of Foreverendia. She even shares her pretend friend, Sir Babbles. The make-believe world allures them away from their gloomy family situations. But how long can they hide from what’s actually going on? When playtime turns serious, lives change abruptly. FOREVERENDIA is a wishful place that doesn’t quite come into focus.
Playwright Brian Tuttle has an interesting premise about children coming together in a shared fantasy. Under the direction of Nicki Mazzocca, there are glimpses of this brave new kid world but I don’t quite see it. Although the stark stage might be part of the problem to transporting to this pretend world, it’s primarily Tuttle’s story that doesn’t introduce the fantasy set up clearly. For example, the character of Sir Babbles (played charmingly buffoonish by Andrew Tardif) is a figment of the kids‘ imagination. His true intent and nature are never satisfyingly established. Is he good or bad?
The kids themselves, Jen Walker (Bailey), Megan Captaine (Nim) and John Steins (Lawrence), pull the audience into their imaginative play. Captaine channels her inner kid that bosses and befriends with fearless abandonment. Steins, in particular, delightfully blossoms right onstage. Tuttle splits the time between fantasy and reality so scenes go back and forth from Foreverendia and the kids’ homes. In Walker’s reality, a harsh Christine Jacobs (Maureen) plays *christian* with misdirected fervor. In a pivotal scene in the show, Jacobs‘ stoic facade is momentarily cracked in an amusement. It’s a powerful moment. Still, Mazzocca’s transitions aren’t always smooth going from kid stuff to adult stuff. The clunkiness sometimes breaks the emotional rhythm.
Founded in 2010, Black Ship Company is a fairly new vehicle to pull into the Chicago Theatre landscape. Their mission is to *bring new plays by new routes.* Although I didn’t get swept away by this FOREVERENDIA, I appreciate Black Ship showcasing new original work. I look forward to their next expedition.
Running Time: Two hours and ten minutes includes an intermission
At Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport
Written by Brian Tuttle
Directed by Nicki Mazzocca
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8pm
Sundays at 2pm
Thru December 23rd
Buy Tickets at www.blackshipco.org
Production photograph courtesy of Sean Howlett