A Book of Ruth | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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A Book of Ruth

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Green Highway Theater, at Stage Left Theatre.

This production has a long-ago ambience: elevated speeches are delivered in measured phrases, warm red and gold draperies fall richly around figures arranged in formal patterns, one actress resembles a Van Eyck painting, another a Millais. But the questions asked in this play, which Janel Winter adapted and directed, are very modern: Are we independent beings or communal? Do our destinies lie in ourselves alone or in the accumulated experience of our ancestors? Is womanly fulfillment to be found in marriage, motherhood, sisterhood, or existential solitude?

Taking the biblical story as its spine, A Book of Ruth puts intelligent, articulate arguments into the mouths of its characters as it explores the ramifications of the young widow's choice to forsake her own family and follow her mother-in-law, Naomi. Initially, everyone is skeptical of her decision--Orpah, Ruth's sister-in-law, who chooses to stay with her parents; Boaz, the wealthy farmer who becomes Ruth's second husband; the women of Naomi's village, who push Ruth to remarry; and Naomi herself, bitter at the termination of her husband's line. But Ruth perseveres, and soon all come to recognize the wisdom of her choice.

Green Highway's debut production last winter, In Process, was little more than a rough draft of a play, but A Book of Ruth reveals the company's capacity to generate a complete, finely crafted work.

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