Rutherford & Son | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Rutherford & Son


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Rutherford & Son, Annex Theater Company, at the Boxer Rebellion Theater. From a purely historical standpoint, Githa Sowerby's 1912 melodrama is of some interest as an example of the populist fare beloved by working-class audiences in turn-of-the-century Britain. And the play's cynicism about domestic life--a common attitude among the more progressive playwrights of the time--has been echoed by such modern writers as Pinter and Albee.

As a play, though, Rutherford & Son is horribly uneven. Sowerby's long-winded script--about a mean-spirited industrialist's criminal neglect of his family--is anticlimactic, and her characters are as drab as the country setting. Inching along at a snail's pace, this two-and-a-half-hour work is not even an engaging bore.

Annex director Mark Gillespie has also made some ill-advised choices. The costumes don't all seem to have come from the same period, and none of the cast manages to maintain a convincing accent. Like the acting, the scenic design might have come from a high school production: the walls threaten to topple every time a door is opened, and no attempt has been made to mask such egregiously modern elements as a fire extinguisher and an exit sign. Annex would have been better off leaving Rutherford & Son where it belongs: collecting cobwebs in the dustbin of history. --Nick Green

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