Audio Podcast available on ITUNES
Narrated by Joshua Volkers
Redtwist Theatre presents
At 1044 W. Bryn Mawr
Written by Tracy Letts
Directed by Andrew Jessop
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm
Sundays at 3pm
Thru April 24th
Running Time: Two hours and ten minutes includes an intermission
Reviewed by Katy Walsh
Go to church, eat dinner, visit mom, watch TV, go to sleep… wake up in crisis! Redtwist Theatre presents MAN FROM NEBRASKA. The rhythm of a man’s life is interrupted by a surge of disbelief. Ken grew up Christian. He was ‘saved’ at age 12. He got married. He became a father and then a grandfather. One night, he announces he doesn’t believe in God. He is terrorized with the notion that his life is a scientific accident. His wife is confused. HIs daughter is annoyed. His pastor suggests a vacation. So, Ken goes to London in search of God. MAN FROM NEBRASKA disturbs the flow when he leaves his life to find it.
Playwright Tracy Letts pens an authentic midlife crisis. Letts deviates from his signature edgy, volatile families with mean-spirited humor (‘Killer Joe’ and ‘August: Osage County‘). Instead, Letts opts for a normal, average insurance guy from Nebraska. He robs him of his belief system and sends him to London to experience a different life. Under the direction of Andrew Jessop, the play opens with short scenes of dull routine. The set-up is not obvious and then it is obvious why Ken might be feeling stuck. Jessop continues to pace the Nebraska scenes with sluggish tedium to contrast with the London free-spirited antics. Aiding in the storytelling, Stephen Carmody creates a utilitarian set that transforms cars into beds with a push and pull.
In the lead, Chuck Spencer (Ken) gives a transformational performance going from dull to odd to self-actualized. Spencer effectively bumbles his way through his quest of discovery. His calm containment makes his sporadic emotional outbursts even more surprising. Despite the chaotic void created by her MIA husband, Jan Ellen Graves (Nancy) plays it perfectly stoic. Functioning somewhere between saint and martyr, Graves bottles up all the betrayal and anger tightly. When she finally loosens the cork, silent tears cascade down Graves’ face. Powerful! Julie Dahlinger (Ashley) is the meddling daughter delivering skillful sharp jabs. Throughout Spencer’s journey, he meets an array of helpful eccentrics played with flourish by a talented cast.
I get Ken. I get Nancy. I get Ashley. The others’ interests in Ken and his crisis aren’t as realistic. Company doesn’t like misery or boring men from Nebraska! I always felt akin to Tracy Letts as a fellow cynic. Most of his characters in other plays are despicable! Letts lets MAN FROM NEBRASKA bring out a softer side of human nature.
Man from Illinois, Dick describe it with ‘Nebraska Pity Party.’
Production photography by Andrew Jessop.