Never In My Lifetime | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Never In My Lifetime

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NEVER IN MY LIFETIME, Piven Theatre Workshop. If war is hell, civil war is doubly so: there are no identifying uniforms, clearly defined battle zones, or Geneva convention agreements to lend a semblance of organization to the bloodshed. A corpse might be packed with explosives to ambush compassionate comrades intent on burying their dead, an old lady savagely beaten by nervous guards wary of guerrilla attackers, or a teenage girl hideously mutilated by her neighbors for the crime of dancing with a foreign soldier. In Shirley Gee's Never in My Lifetime Tom and Tessie are of the same race and economic class, speak the same language, and were born a bare 200 miles from each other. But he's English, she's Irish, and this is Belfast in the 70s. From the moment they fall in love, they're doomed.

Gee proposes no solution, instead dwelling on the atrocities inflicted by partisans on both sides--a gallery of inhumanities to test the intestinal fortitude of the most detached theatergoer. But the cast assembled by Jennifer Green for this Piven Theatre Workshop production resists the impulse to indulge in agitprop excess: these actors instead wring Gee's tear-saturated text with the deft restraint and sensitivity to be expected of a company affiliated with one of our region's finest acting programs. They render fresh and immediate the absurdity of a war started almost four centuries ago and still being fought today.

--Mary Shen Barnidge

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