Theater Review : Paradise Lost details the Great Depression

TimeLine Theatre Company’s reputation for fine theater includes great reviews, a supportive audience, and several Jefferson Awards for excellence. Paradise Lost was my first time attending one of their performances, and it could not have been a better experience. Their space at 615 W. Wellington inside the Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ Building is an intimate space and brings the audience and cast together well.

Odets’ play examines the lives of families living in the stressful times of the Great Depression. The Gordons, Leo (Michael Kingston), his wife Clara (Janet Ulrich Brooks), their sons Ben (Aaron Golden) and Julie (Jurgen Hooper), and daughter Pearl (Mechelle Moe) have lived the life of well-off middle America. As Leo’s business fails, every aspect of that life changes. His business partner, Sam Katz (Brian McCartney) and his wife Bertha (Angela Bullard) share the house and also share the devastation of loss.

Gus Michaels (Whit Spurgeon), a lifelong friend, spends much of his time with the Gordons. His daughter Libby (Tien Doman) marries Ben. Two other significant characters are Lucas (Scott Aiello), the ever-present furnace repairman, and Kewpie (Jeremy Glickstein), representing the seamy crook.

Louis Contey directs, and in the talk-back session following the play, the cast and Artistic Director PJ Powers credit him with taking Odets’ work and giving it life. The emotional effort needed is transmitted in every scene. The choice of Odets’ plays began last season with Awake and Sing, and Paradise Lost illustrates a darker side of the human condition. All agreed that in the final scene, Leo’s positive lines were written by a man whose basic value is that of a better day tomorrow.

Discovering TimeLine gives me another venue, and the quality of their work is outstanding. Their season continues with Tesla’s Letter (Nov. 10-Dec. 23), Dolly West’s Kitchen (Jan. 26-March 22), and April 17, TimeLine’s 2007 Joseph Jefferson Citation for Outstanding Musical, Fiorello! returns.

Tickets are one of the best buys in Chicago—four admission flex pass for $96. Call (773) 281-8463 for details.

from the Sept. 19 – 25, 2007, issue

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