Review "What Once We Felt": Felt Intriguingly Confusing!

About Face Theatre presents

What Once We Feltfelt

At Center on Halsted

3656 N. Halsted

Written by Ann Marie Healy

Directed by Krissy Vanderwarker

Thru March 6th

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Running Time: Two hours includes a ten minute intermission


I’ve been to the future. Not surprising, men have become extinct. A bit more alarming, books are next on the endangered list. About Face Theatre presents the Midwest premiere What Once We Felt. It’s the movie Gattaca meets the book 1984 with hints of the TV show The L Word. A writer has been offered the opportunity to be the last book ever published and printed. In exchange, she will relinquish her one option to have a baby. Outside her personal world, femalekind is struggling with the procreation of perfected DNA only. Playwright Ann Marie Healy has created an intriguing futuristic society. Women are finally running the government but it’s not the utopia imagined.

The best moments in What Once We Felt is hilarious dialogue deliciously delivered by an all-star female line-up playing multiple roles. Rebecca Sohn (Claire) is the mastermind publisher easily distracted during book negotiations with “if you just fix that one area… ” and “who first said ‘like butter?'” Sohn is so bigger than life as Claire, it’s hard to recognize her in two smaller parts. Patricia Kane (Astrid) plays a flamboyant, eccentric agent missing the old days with “alcoholic writers” and “the two martini publishing deal lunches.” She is hysterically catty! Elizabeth Laidlaw (Laura) is the amusing double talking editor who is using the book to promote social reform. Charin Alvarez has limited lines as a “trade pack” but even her uttering “ta-ta” is powerfully haunting. What Once We Felt is a complicated futuristic story. Under the direction of Krissy Vanderwarker, the tale has been stretched out across the floor to sort out the action. Big ideas need a lot of room so this center staging helps declutter some of the plotlines taking place. Projections of past and present billboards add a Gatsby-like quality to the storytelling.

Healy transports us to the future in What Once We Felt. I liked where I went but I wish I had a map so I knew how I got there.  The play left me with a lot of unanswered questions.  Where did the term “trade pack” come from? How about “Keeper”? (I’m looking for a snitch). And where are the men? It’s better to be a “keeper” and not get sick then a “trade pack” and suffer. Understood!  But beyond that, What Once We Felt?   Do “keepers” not feel physically? How about emotionally? Or is the ideal, not to feel as “refined reserve”, being the slang of the time period, might suggest? Do “keepers” die? Throughout the play, “the transition” is referenced with its goal, “shimmering possibilities.” Exactly! Healy, give us a little more transition for shimmering possibilities.


Leaving the women dominated future, I stroll into present day’s boystown.  I meet up with Dick for post theatre discussion at Firefly, 3335 N. Halsted.  Firefly is a cozy alternative to the loud and shiny bars on The Strip.  It’s busy but we score enough barstools for Bob and Kathy to join us for a nightcap.  Over a nice Green Point Shiraz, I leave the future behind and focus on a world of books, men and shimmering possibilities.  It feels good!

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