Club Soda | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

National Jewish Theater.

Set in Brooklyn (where else?) in 1946, Leah Kornfeld Friedman's loving but familiar memory play details teenage Lillie's awkward coming-of-age, piano lessons and all--even broken front teeth her parents are too poor to fix. This scrappy, plainspoken heroine feels that life is hemming her in just when her dreams, fed by the novels she gobbles up, should soar. Taking too many commercial courses has kept her out of college. She's unsure how smart to be, and how far to go with her dogged boyfriend Binnie. Forcing herself into the boys' secret Club Soda, she yearns for privileges--like playing poker--the guys take for granted.

Except for a wedding, a job, and a brush with pregnancy, not much happens to Lillie, which may be the point of this easygoing, unambitious play. The tried-and-true dialogue glows with winsome naivete, like Binnie's forlorn statement that, "If we get married, we won't fight anymore." Details like the broken teeth and the club's elaborate initiation ring true.

Steve Scott's staging flows as easily as the plot: wise casting choices make for a convincing time trip. Seana Kofoed's earthy Lillie is no nostalgic soulful sufferer; she's alert to mistakes that can mess up her future. Kofoed gives us a disarmingly honest and immediate person, and so do Johnathan F. McClain as the decent, muddled Binnie and Shannon Branham as Lillie's good-time girlfriend. Though all the cast succumb to Brooklyn overkill a la

Moonstruck, they also feel real.

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