We Live Here at Theatre Seven of Chicago | Theater review

Eight writers recall their Chicago coming-of-age moments in Theatre Seven’s new anthology.
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Photograph: Amanda Clifford We Live Here at Theatre Seven of Chicago
By Kris Vire |
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The “here” refers to Chicago in this collection of personal stories by eight playwrights. More specifically, it refers to the North Side. Whereas earlier this summer Theatre Seven’s similar anthology, The Chicago Landmark Project, dealt in some places with questions of race, class and privilege, We Live Here is about theater artists—which means stories about arriving for grad school, blogging about waiting tables, budding relationships between bike messengers and going to Cubs games. North Side stories.

That said, the stories are entertaining, frequently touching and strikingly staged. Many of the artists behind We Live Here are 2nd Story regulars, and the pieces have the feel of that brand of storytelling enhanced with added theatrical flair. Each of the threads is built on first-person narration, with cast members portraying the writers—a device that, admirably, isn’t hammered too hard; if you didn’t notice in your program that the characters share names with the playwrights, you might not make the connection.

The stories suggest the writers were asked to consider a moment that encapsulated what they love most about Chicago. Kim Morris’s story, about her relationship with a fellow bike messenger, is full of evocative details about the specific qualities of different downtown streets while drawing a line between the increasing frequency of her crashes and the decline of the romance; actors Cyd Blakewell and Keith Neagle perfectly capture the arc. Laura Eason, serenely portrayed by Sarah Gitenstein, describes being comforted as she awaits bad news from her doctor by images of Chicago after the fire, on display in the Water Tower.

Directors Margot Bordelon and Cassy Sanders weave the tales together with deftness, interspersed with video commentary from other Chicagoans about their affinities for the city. It’s all done so thoughtfully as to leave us happily reexamining why we live here.

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