By Edith McCauley
My admiration for the work of Mary Zimmerman began soon after my first theater review. In 1996, when The Lookingglass Theatre Company mounted S/M at the Briar Street Theater, it was apparent her innovative work would become among my favorite theater experiences. Later, The Great Chicago Fire and Baron in the Trees, with good friend Gary Wingert playing key roles, made me realize the complete diversity and creativity of her choices of writers and topics could not be matched.
In 2002, she collaborated with Phillip Glass to stage the opera Galileo Galilei at the Goodman, where her previous work, The Odyssey, had been performed. In 2007, she made her Metropolitan Opera directorial debut with Lucia di Lammermoor. Candide is the acme of her career. Every aspect of former productions combines to display her talent and amazing creativity.
Based on Voltaire’s satiric story of Candide’s journeys to discover the world, himself, and his true love, Zimmerman has researched the many musical versions done previously. Leonard Bernstein’s original score, written in 1954, has been adapted beautifully with Mary Zimmerman’s reinvention of Candide. Her cast is impeccable, playing multiple roles, performing incredibly complicated choreography, and vocally matching the most experienced of operatic singers.
Geoff Packard plays the title role with Lauren Molina as his love, Cunegonde. Larry Yando is Professor Panglass, whose lectures about positive philosophy clash dramatically with the negativity of Martin (Tom Aulino), whom Candide encounters during his journey. Erik Lochtefeld is Maximillian, Cunegonde’s outrageous brother, and also re-emerges as a Jesuit priest. He and Panglass finally share the oars as slaves on a galley.
Listed last in the cast is Hollis Resnik, Old Lady. She literally steals the show. Having seen her in many productions, my appreciation for her work cannot be measured. As a solo singer and as a part of the ensemble, she is perfect, but her comedic talent and unbelievable ability to physically interpret her character is unmatched. She received a standing ovation from the audience. The large cast stretched from wing to wing, and everyone is a star.
The orchestra, led by Doug Peck, received equal ovations. The Goodman has mounted one of their best productions in their 10-year history. Zimmerman is renowned for her staging, and Candide incorporates every aspect of that creativity. From the model of a tiny town on a tray collapsing to represent the devastating earthquake in Portugal, to the canoe and small ship models on which Candide and his friends journey across the world, we see reality in miniature. Much like the burning of small paper buildings in The Great Chicago Fire, anything is possible in a tiny world.
Obviously, my recommendation is…You must see Candide! Playing in the Albert Theatre, it celebrates the 10th anniversary of the space on Dearborn. For ticket information, call (312) 443-3800, or go online to GoodmanTheatre.org. The show runs through Oct. 24. Do see it.
From the Oct. 6-12, 2010 issue