The Shadow Box | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Shadow Box


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The Shadow Box, Shining Through Productions, at the Heartland Studio Theater. Twenty-five years have not dulled the intensity of Michael Cristofer's Tony- and Pulitzer-winning drama. In adjoining cabins on the grounds of a home for the terminally ill, three families confront or avoid the deaths of loved ones. All of the grief stages--denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance--get a piece of the limelight.

This is very much an actors' play, critically dependent on sensitivity and subtlety. Director Michael Ryczek has calibrated his production precisely for the Heartland stage--a tiny box even with the walls and floor sponged green to create the illusion of open space. This intimate arena allows faces to reveal a thousand times more than we could hear in words. Ryczek has also helped his cast find their characters' distinct rhythms--incessant chattering and rationalization from the very cerebral Brian (Andrew Kottler); singsong longing from old, old Felicity (Betty Scott Smith), who hopes for a visit from a daughter long dead; and deep-throated undulation from oversexed Beverly (Georg Coleman--perfectly cast, but a little too quick with her retorts to sound natural). Also noteworthy: although the members of different families don't interact directly, Ryczek creates moments of connection by keeping characters from different story lines onstage together and allowing them to react to a shout or crash from another cabin, quietly letting us know that they--and we--all participate in the same tale.

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