What do you do when you are presented with a door to an adventure? Do you remain with the familiar, or do you take the jump? How do you begin to navigate a life that will never again feel the same?
Lifeline Theatre Revives 2010 Production of Neverwhere
Adapted from Neil Gaiman’s novel by Lifeline Ensemble Member Robert Kauzlaric and directed by Ilesa Duncan, Neverwhere follows Richard Mayhew (portrayed by Jose Nateras, who adds an appropriately awkward charm to the character), an average Londoner with a dead-end job and a fiancé, Jessica (Michaela Petro), who takes advantage of his push-over nature. Richard is ready to accept his fate until Lady Door (Samantha Newcomb, offering a strong counterpart to Nasteras’ Richard) literally falls into his path. He makes the choice to act out of kindness and help her – a choice that changes his life forever. Suddenly he not only discovers that there is a whole shadow world beneath the London he knows, but also that the choice to help Door has ripped him from the life he knows and trapped him down below.
Accompanied by Hunter (played with a fantastic dead pan humor by Anesia Hicks) and the Marquis de Carabas (portrayed with spot-on comedic timing by Matthew Singleton), Richard decides to follow Lady Door on an adventure that he only hopes can return him back to his normal life rather than end it completely. The question is, if he ever makes it back, will he want to return to the average? Or will that taste of adventure make a new man out of him? Richard and Door are brought together by fate and come to realize that they will need each other to find the answers that they seek and overcome the obstacles that face them below, including the partner assassins Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar (John Henry Roberts and LaQuin Groves – who offer hilarious performances and a fantastic stage chemistry).
Kauzlaric’s adaptation accurately captures the essence of Gaiman’s novel with an added level of dark humor, and Duncan cleverly brings the piece to life in collaboration with her artistic team. Scenic and Properties Designer Alan Donahue (Lifeline Ensemble Member) creates an abstract structure that successfully transports the audience both to the upper and lower levels of London. The space is filled with staircases and scaffolding that the actors can use to reach great heights or the depths of the space, which allows Duncan to help emphasize all of the mysterious levels of the city.
Projections Designer Michelle Underwood fills in the gaps that the set cannot reach, particularly in highlighting the vastness of London’s dark underground, as well as Richard’s dream sequences. After Richard meets Door, he starts to dream about the shadow world that is starting to grab him, and Underwood projects the images flashing through Richard’s mind, adding an exciting layer to the scene.
Finally, Lighting Designer Becca Jeffords completes the picture through adding a frightening air to the room, and allowing the audience to feel the darkness that the characters describe through a mix of greens and purples that add shadows to the room.
In addition to the large structure, Donahue includes multiple doors throughout the set. Lady Door has the magical ability to open doorways, and that plot point plays an important role in her adventure with Richard. Donahue’s doorways help emphasize that element, but also creates a fun extra layer to Duncan’s staging.
One example occurs right at the beginning of the play when we are introduced to Richard’s work life. He sits at a desk that pulls out from the wall, and his coworkers walk through a revolving door adding piles and piles of work to his plate. Eventually his fiancé is added to the mix, and she walks out to order him further. The revolving door adds humor, but also helps play into the larger theme of individuals controlling Richard’s life in a manner in which he can barely control until Door enters the play and drastically alters the pattern. The use of doorways at the beginning sets the audience up for a motif that occurs throughout, adding further mystery to the play with the knowledge that any character could enter at any point.
Full of adventure and humor, Neverwhere certainly makes for a fun-filled evening.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Playing through August 12, 2018
Thursdays at 7:30pm
Fridays at 7:30pm
Saturdays at 4:00pm and 8:00pm
Sundays at 4:00pm
Run Time: 2 hours and 20 minutes, with intermission.
6912 N Glenwood Avenue
Chicago, IL 60626
Photo Credit: Lifeline Ensemble Member Suzanne Plunkett
Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago.
LaQuin Groves Mr. Vandemar and Ensemble
Aneisa Hicks Hunter and Ensemble
Jose Nateras Richard
Samantha Newcomb Lady Door
Michaela Petro Jessica, Lamia, and Ensemble
Michael Reyes Islington and Ensemble
John Henry Roberts Mr. Croup and Ensemble
Matthew Singleton Marquis de Carabas and Ensemble
Dave Skvarla Old Bailey and Ensemble
Adaptor Robert Kauzlaric
Director Ilesa Duncan
Scenic and Properties Design Alan Donahue
Costume Design Aly Renee Amidei
Lighting Design Becca Jeffords
Original Music & Sound Design Andrew Hansen
Puppet Designer Mike Oleon
About the Author:
Lauren Katz is a freelance director and dramaturge, and new to the Chicago Theatre Scene. She recently moved from Washington DC, where she worked with Mosaic Theater Company of DC in Company Management, as well as directed around town with various theaters.
Click here to read more Picture this Post stories by Lauren Katz.