Chicago's Lookingglass Theatre presents Laura Eason's World Premiere Stage Adaptation of Ethan Frome.

Chicago, Tuesday, March 8, 2011. One hundred years ago in 1911, Edith Wharton’s novella (1862-1937) “Ethan Frome” was published.  The tale of a poor and sensitive farmer held back from his potential by a series of tragic events became an American classic and required reading in many high school’s curriculum.  Now Lookingglass Theatre Ensemble member and author Laura Eason has adapted  “Ethan Frome,” for stage.  The show opened Saturday at Lookingglass Theatre and will continue there through April 17,  2011.

When Eason, who is also the author of “Sex With Strangers”— a stark contrast to “Ethan Frome” and currently running at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre–was asked why she decided to dramatize Wharton’s novella, her answer was “I fell in love with the story.”  She continued, “I had already started writing the play in my head before I finished the novel.”

The Lookingglass Theatre production of Ethan Frome features company members Philip R Smith as the title character, trapped by circumstances and indecision; Andrew White as visiting businessman Henry Morton, Louise Lamson as Mattie Silver, Zeena’s sweet, orphaned young cousin who comes to the farm to help; Lisa Tejero as Zeena Frome, Ethan’s mean-spirited hypochondriac wife: and Erik Lochtefeld as Harmon Brand and others.  Designers include Daniel Ostling, scenic; Mara Blumenfeld, costume; Christine Binder, lighting; Kevin O’Donnell, composition; Rick Sims, sound design; and William Anderson, properties. It’s a top drawer team from Eason to Smith who recently appeared as Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird” at Steppenwolf Theatre. Eason both adapted and directed the production.  

The adaptation remains true to the book and retains much of the flavor.  In order to structure the story for the stage the sequencing of some events needed to be changed as did some elements in the setting. Both the book and the play open with the older, disillusioned and crippled Ethan taking the newcomer, businessman back and forth to the train. Silence reigns during the hour long one way trip while the businessman tries to find a way to communicate with the stoic Ethan and patch together the puzzle of Ethan’s past.   The story is then revealed through a series of flashbacks.

The production is first-class with the staging, directing and acting professional and worthy of applause from audiences to critics.  The question is:  Have the times made this story hopelessly out of date or is the tale of a marriage gone sour, forbidden love, lost opportunities and unfilled desires from a more innocent period in history still something that resonates with today’s audiences?  Judge for yourself at the slideshow below.  PHOTO CREDIT: Sean Williams.

Tickets.
Tickets are $20-$62.  Tickets may be purchased online, www.lookingglasstheatre.org; by phone at 312 337 0665; or in person at the Lookingglass Theatre box office, 821 N. Michigan Ave. at Pearson.  The show runs through April 17, 2011.

Discount Tickets.
Target Saturday Matinees offer a limited number of buy one, get one free tickets which are available to all 3:00 p.m. Saturday matinees.  A limited number of student tickets are available the day of the show for $20 with valid student ID.

Location.
Lookingglass Theatre is located in the heart of the Magnificent Mile shopping district inside Chicago’s historic Water Tower Water Works, 821 N. Michigan Ave. at Pearson. 

Parking.
Discounted parking is available for Lookingglass patrons at both the nearby John Hancock Center and Olympia Centre Self Park (161 E. Chicago Ave.)

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