The family in Sagittarius Ponderosa can only truly see one another in dreams | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

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The family in Sagittarius Ponderosa can only truly see one another in dreams

But in dreams begin responsibilities.


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The family of Archer (Jaq Seifert) still calls him Angela and considers him a daughter rather than a son when he moves back home to help care for his ailing Pops (Brian Parry). Mom (Jacqueline Grandt) is mostly focused on keeping the family's life as it has always been, ignoring the seismic changes happening right under her nose, while Grandma (Kathleen Ruhl) just wants "Angela" to get married so "she" won't end up alone.

MJ Kaufman's play—receiving its Chicago premiere at Redtwist Theatre under James Fleming's direction—is note-perfect in showing how often people talk past each other, speaking only of their own desires and hearing only what they want to hear without ever truly listening. Even when Archer meets a stranger in the woods (Christopher Acevedo) and begins a covert affair, neither lover can see the other for much more than what they need them to be. Pops dies but remains as central in each of the family members' lives as he ever was. His ghost forces each of them to confront themselves in crucial ways that will allow them to go on.

While the central metaphor of trees standing in for people is a bit on the nose, Kristen Martino's set and Daniel Friedman's lighting design evoke a liminal space where the future and past as well as the living and the dead can mingle freely. The implication that we must enter a dreamlike twilight time in order to truly see one another is a wise insight, but also achingly sad.   v

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