The Member of the Wedding | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Member of the Wedding

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THE MEMBER OF THE WEDDING, Organic Theater Company. Carson McCullers's 1950 classic is rarely performed in part because its two main characters are children, a girl of 12 and a boy of 7. Its setting is also difficult to render: a kitchen, back porch, and yard complete with swing and arbor. The play's chief difficulty, however, lies in its subject: a preteen coming to terms with her changing family and a changing world.

The time is 1945, the place a small town in the deep south, where everything is suddenly alien and fragile for Frankie Addams. The immediate crisis is her beloved older brother's imminent marriage, but there are also global changes afoot: war in Europe, the deployment of the atomic bomb, unstable race relations. The confused Frankie seeks solace in the company of John Henry, her meek cousin, and Berenice, the family housekeeper.

McCullers's microcosmic view relies less on plot than on the atmosphere produced by volatile passions. The temptation is to dilute the play's innate tension with sitcom shtick, but director Jonathan Wilson rejects this simplistic approach, as do Meghan and Mick LaRocca, playing the boyish Frankie and the girlish John Henry. These young actors carry off their extensive dialogue and intricate dialects with ease, ably supported by Alma Washington, who gives Berenice dignity and presence. Together they paint a poignant picture of innocence on the brink of extinction.

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