AstonRep Theatre Company Presents ELEEMOSYNARY Review – “Flying with words”

AstonRep chooses the remarkable script of Lee Blessing’s ELEEMOSYNARY; exhibiting a delicate relationship between three generations of women who have the need to be exceptional. Blessings’ writing is delightfully poetic as the characters defy gender norms and take pride in eccentricity and knowledge.

As the lights come up, Echo (the youngest daughter) spells and defines ELEEMOSYNARY as charitable; relating to alms. The audience is immediately drawn into a world where knowledge takes precedence and the endeavor to be extraordinary is a family trait.

The familial divide between Artie (Alexandra Bennett) and her mother, Dorothea (Debra Rodkin), and child, Echo (Sarah C. Lo) is a captivating affair. Dorothea and Artie have clashing beliefs of Artie abandoning her personal journey to nurture a child. What eventually comes to fruition is Echo's first words being γιαγιά; Greek for grandmother.

Arties’ personal obligation is to escape every moment that is remotely difficult. Dorothea has an obligation to stick to eccentricity in order to escape the stillness of life.

AstonRep Theatre Company Presents ELEEMOSYNARY Review
Alexandra Bennett, Sarah C. Lo and Debra Rodkin in AstonRep Theatre Company’s production of ELEEMOSYNARY by Lee Blessing, co-directed by Derek Bertelsen and Jeremiah Barr Photo Credit: Emily Schwartz

While Echo, is obligated to be the enlightened product of Dorothea’s charitable upbringing. There was a feeling of anguish between Artie and Echo. Artie choosing her career and personal life over caring for her daughter. Echo’s deep yearning for her mom’s attention and affection was heartbreaking.

AstonRep Theatre Company Presents ELEEMOSYNARY Review
(left to right) Alexandra Bennett, Debra Rodkin and Sarah C. Lo in AstonRep Theatre Company’s production of ELEEMOSYNARY by Lee Blessing, co-directed by Derek Bertelsen and Jeremiah Barr. Photo Credit: Emily Schwartz

Sarah C. Lo gave an outstanding performance as Echo that made the 75 minutes fly. From lights up to blackout, one could not help but watch every move of Sarah as she commanded the space with understanding and drive. The powerful moment being Echo competing in a spelling bee where her fiery passion for words, education, and the need to be the best is believably embodied. The majority of the audience seemed engaged as other audience members were drifting off during the 75 minute run. The investment from the cast was apparent yet the characters of Dorothea and Artie seemed, to this writer, a bit two dimensional.

The directorial choices were somewhat puzzling. The use of space was ineffective, stagnant, and few stage pictures assisted the use of visual narrative. Through split scenes between action and storytelling, one felt as though the act of storytelling overcompensated for the lack of physical action and discovery.

The implied subtleties limited the actors’ character arc and the heart of the play.

Somewhat Recommended


Note:  An excerpt of this play appears in Theatre in Chicago.


ELEEMOSYNARY runs Sunday, February 26 – Sunday,

March 12, 2017, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm;

Sundays at 2:30 pm


The Frontier, 1106 W. Thorndale Ave., Chicago


$20. Student/seniors $10.
Tickets are currently available at or by calling (773) 828-9129


Emily Schwartz

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