Monday, July 20, 2009

New Review Posted: The Ruby Sunrise

Centerstage posted a new review on Friday of Gift Theatre's production of Rinne Groff's The Ruby Sunrise. It's not a perfect play, but Groff has a great ear for dialogue and can write a fantastic scene. The show is utterly charming and the production really pops off the stage. It's a long journey out to Jefferson Park (at least for people who live off the Red Line like me), but it's really worth it for this show. These are some of the best actors in the non-equity scene (plus two equity people) doing a play that's both fun and intellectually engaged. Seriously, take the trip. The full review is here:

Much art, especially in the US, focuses on the necessity of following your dreams, against all odds. But what of the costs? Rinne Groff's utterly charming, surprisingly moving "The Ruby Sunrise" delves into this disturbing question with wit and a light touch. The dramatic scenes and big revelations may come too easily to really sting, but John Gawlik's robust production makes the best of Groff's rewarding play.

The first part centers on Ruby (Maura Kidwell), a young woman in 1927, struggling to create an all-electric television system in her Aunt Lois's (Alexandra Main) barn. She seems on the verge of breakthrough, but her status as a woman in science and her growing attraction to Lois's boarder, Henry (Patrick De Nicola), intervene.

The play then shifts to 1950s New York, in the early years of television. Lulu Miles (Brenda Barrie), is a "script girl" for Martin Marcus (John Kelly Connolly), a television producer. When she convinces him and writer Tad Rose (Michael Patrick Thornton) to produce Ruby's story in a TV play, all seems well—until commercial pressures and the blacklist intervene.

The scenes in Indiana sometimes skirt cliche, and the New York section covers very familiar thematic territory. But Groff writes vibrant, exciting dialogue and has created rounded, fascinating characters (with one grating exception, portrayed by the valiant Caitlin Emmons), so the show is consistently fun to watch and often engaging on a profound level.

Gawlik's production helps significantly; he's guided his actors to exceptional work, with Barrie, De Nicola, Main, Connolly and Thornton particularly strong. He also has the great advantage of Ian Zywica's set, which packs a wide variety of locations into a tiny space, and set changes that are wonderfully fun to watch; the show never slows down or gets dull. The play may not quite reach what it intends, but it sure is exciting to watch it get close.

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