There is nothing special about a bog - a large area of swampy land. Sometimes trees grow out if, sometimes there’s a body of water. To the outsider not familiar with Ireland’s bogs, they’re unremarkable pieces of land. However, in the Artistic Home’s production of BY THE BOG OF CATS, the bog is a place that connects the people living on the land.
The Artistic Home’s BY THE BOG OF CATS is a Tale of Nowhere to Go
For one woman in particular, Hester Swane, her life is tied to the bog. But it seems like everybody else around her is trying to force her out.
The once love of her life, Carthage Kilbride, dumped Hester after being together for fourteen years and having a child together. Now, he is engaged to Carline Cassidy, the daughter of a wealthy landowner, Xavier Cassidy.
It becomes a struggle between Hester and this new family as the Cassidys want to take away the home Carthage built for her and their daughter, Josie.
The set designed by Anders Jacobsen and Judy Radovsky reflects this struggle over the land. The background shows both the beauty of the bog with an orange and pink sunrise/sunset reflecting both times of day. But it also shows the darkness that surrounds it. The audience is faced with two opposing buildings - the house Carthage built on one side and a run-down caravan on the other.
Hester was never comfortable in the home Carthage built for her and always needed to roam the bog. But she cannot leave the caravan that was once her home. The Swane family were travelers and, true to character, Hester’s mother leaves her behind when she was only seven years old with nothing but the caravan.
Acting that Delves Deep into Hidden Pasts
The story itself, written by Irish playwright Marina Carr, is loosely based on the Greek tragedy, Medea. It is full of twists and turns that leave you continuously surprised.
The best part about it is, you believe every one!
There wasn’t a moment where you doubted a character would have done that or felt something was out of the blue. The story involves everything a good tragedy needs - a mysterious ghostly figure, continuous conflict, a troubled past, and most importantly, a tragic end.
The cast carries the story truthfully as it goes deeper and deeper into each of the characters’ pasts. We find out how each of the characters on the land are connected to one another.
This makes the story even more troubling as they continuously try to hurt one another. The relationships they show on stage are filled with high energy that grips you to the very end.
Director John Mossman has done a superb job making this cast connect with one another.
A Mother and Daughter's Unbreakable Bond
Kristin Collins and Elise Wolf, playing Hester and Josie respectively, give stunning performances that carry the show. Collins plays Hester so wonderfully as she switches from fighting for her life to a loving mother doing the best for Josie. We feel her character's tenacity. She brings us into a whirlwind of emotions hard to keep up with - in the best way. We are torn between rooting for her to win this battle, but also at times worry if she is taking things too far.
As Josie, Wolf shows acting abilities far beyond her years. She is funny and fierce throughout the show. We never doubt her love for her mother and also see her kind and loving nature as she wants to be with both her mother and father.
These two are the perfect pair to run the show and make the ending all the more tragic.
A Haunting Tale That Won’t Be Forgotten
Hester struggles to keep her life together as it feels like everyone in her life has abandoned her - her mother, Carthage, and even at times her own daughter. As the outside forces take control, the story comes to a close and you leave the theater satisfied and perhaps almost in tears. It will haunt you for weeks to come.
Note: An excerpt of this play appears in Theatre in Chicago.
Now through April 15
Thursdays at 7:30pm
Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm
Sundays at 3:00pm
The Artistic Home Theatre
1376 W. Grand Avenue
Chicago, IL 60642
Accessible via the CTA #65 Grand bus and the Blue Line
$28 for Thursday or Sunday
$32 for Friday or Saturday
Chicago Theatre Week tickets are available for performances February 9 - 19. Use code THWEEK for discounted tickets.
Tickets are available by calling 312.811.4111 or go to www.theartistichome.org
Joe Mazza at Brave Lux Photography