Lyric Opera shakes the Athenaeum Theatre with Strong Voices of FELLOW TRAVELERS
The Athenaeum Theatre rang loud and proud with this made-for-the-stage production of the Thomas Mallon novel of the same name, premiering in Chicago on March 17th. Under the conducting of Daniela Candillari, the vocal gifts of veteran and debuting actors resounded throughout the building as the story of forbidden love, trust, betrayal, patriotism and human weakness was laid bare on the stage.
Art Imitates Life, Life Reflects Art
Human beings are just that, human. With all the flash and goodness and love, we tend to lose sight of the heights, and grovel in the muck. So to, the characters here. True love shrinks in the face of persecution (and threats of prosecution) and socially-acceptable stability is chosen over it. A different time, our days? A different place? Are we so different? The pause for reflection is necessary if we’re to live differently.
The lead roles of Hawkins Fuller and Timothy Laughlin, played respectively by Joseph Lattanzi and Jonas Hacker, developed the main plot. Two men in mid-1950’s Washington, D.C. fall in love with each other – one, a state department official and the other, a rookie journalist. All would be bells and roses and brunch had the story not been set in the midst of the Ameri-steria hunt for communists (and homosexuals) under the Democrats and Republicans of the Cold War.
The supporting roles of Senator Potter (Reginald Smith, Jr.), his assistant (Sam Handley), Mary Johnson (Devon Guthrie), Miss Lightfoot (Vanessa Becerra), Lucy (Amy Kuckelman), Tommy McIntyre (Will Liverman) and Senator Joseph McCarthy (Marcus DeLoach) certainly did more than merely “support” the main players. This troupe gave impassioned performances with the direction of Kevin Newbury.
The seamlessness of the scene transitions is a credit to all involved in the physical presentation of the set. The actors themselves, part active and part passive, wove themselves in and out of the scenes, steering, turning, pushing bookcases, “brick walls,” filing cabinets, and furniture with the finesse of the ballet.
Unfortunately, for this writer and student of history the opera medium may have missed the mark a bit in its overly-expository libretto, the text of which alone would make an impassioned retelling of this visceral story. However, the audience was fully engaged and gave thunderous applause at the curtain call.
This play will appeal in a special way to those who remember, first-hand, the names and places and circumstances of the Red (and Pink) Scare of the 1950’s.
2936 N. Southport Ave.
March 17th, 21st, 23rd, 7:30pm
and Sunday, the 25th at 2:00pm
Joseph Anthony Rulli is a transplanted Hoosier, living in Chicago since the fall of 2006. A 1987 graduate of the University of Notre Dame (BA, History) and a 1992 graduate of St. Meinrad School of Theology (MDiv) he taught Social Studies, Religion, Philosophy and History at the high school level. He began writing as a career upon his arrival to his second city and has had two short stories published, a stage play performed, an electronic tour book published online and The Chicago Haymarket Affair (History Press/Arcadia Publishing, 2016) his first print book.