Memories of our high school gym class instantly come flooding back as we enter the Rivendell Theatre. Championship banners hang on the wall along with bleachers off to the side. AS THE FIREBIRDS TAKE THE FIELD explores a mysterious outbreak among cheerleaders and we dive deep into the psyche’s of the modern teenager and the stressors that come with it.
Rivendell Theatre Ensemble Tackles a Medical Mystery
Based on true events that happened six years ago, FIREBIRDS tells the story of a mysterious medical outbreak in LeRoy, New York. We delve into this medical case led by neuroscientist, Avery Kahn. Leaving the small town of Highland Falls was always her dream. She’s had a successful career up until now as a researcher running her own lab. But for some reason, she can’t quite leave her past behind.
Avery drops everything when her old high school BFF, Helen, calls up out of the blue because her daughter and other girls at school are displaying strange symptoms. Daughter Penelope, along with cheerleaders, Agatha and Lucia have developed tics, random outbursts, and no one can explain why.
After examining the girls, Avery determines there are a few possible explanations, but needs time to run more tests. For the time being, she essentially moves in with Helen under the guise of needing to stay close to the subjects she’s observing.
She becomes more and more involved with Helen and Penelope’s life - urging Penelope to finish her college applications, rearranging their furniture, and running errands for them (something Avery doesn’t even manage to do for her agoraphobic mother). This closeness actually causes Avery to develop some symptoms herself.
The beauty of this script by playwright Lynn Rosen is that we too are hooked and want to get to the bottom of it all as much as Avery. That it’s based on real-world events hooks us all the more.
A Compelling Case Lead by Astounding Women
Rivendell Theatre Ensemble’s mission is to cultivate the talents of women artists. They’ve certainly hit their mark with FIREBIRDS. These actresses (and one actor) have taken the script by Rosen and made it come alive with their diverse characters. Leading the show is Meighan Gerachis playing Avery. Her mannerisms and dry sarcasm makes Avery pop onstage. We are fascinated by her multi-faceted character as we discover more and more about her past and how this still affects her.
The three women playing the three afflicted teenagers, Jessica Ervin (Penelope), Hannah Toriumi (Agatha), and Aurora Real del Asua (Lucia), are skilled at bringing the mental states of today’s teenagers to the stage. They capture what it’s like to be a young woman in high school and are the perfect foils to their mothers and Avery. They have just the right balance of peppiness and anxiety that so often plagues high schoolers trying balance their home and school lives.
Creative Technical Elements
In addition to the cast members, the additional technical elements were on point as well. The set design was fun not only because it brought some nostalgia, but because its set pieces were cleverly stored in cabinets and hidey-holes. This made the transitions, accompanied by upbeat pop music, very smooth and choreographed. Major props to director, set designer, and choreographer Jessica Fisch, Joanna Iwanicka, and Katherine Scott. Respectively. These elements incorporated just the right touch of cheerleading and pep.
Overall, FIREBIRDS will be a good watch for anyone intrigued by stories based on real life and also involved a medical mystery. It’s a well written mystery that doesn’t give too much away and is led by a phenomenal cast that transports you to this small town life.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO. Click here to read — Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.'
Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago.
Now through May 27th
Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00pm
Saturdays at 4:00pm & 8:00pm
Rivendell Theatre Ensemble
5779 N. Ridge Avenue
Chicago, IL 60660