Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Tony Award-winning stage musical "Passion" isn't a production audiences come face-to-face with very often.
Both intimate and mighty, all at the same time, Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre in Chicago is offering a moving and masterful talent-filled telling of this tale now through April 27 at their performance space in the Rogers Park neighborhood on Chicago's northside at the No Exit Cafe, 6970 N. Glenwood Ave.
It stars a favorite stage face with Northwest Indiana roots, actress and singer Danni Smith, who is originally from Logansport.
Set in 19th Century Italy, "Passion" unfolds the romantic entanglements of Fosca, played by Smith, a sick and reclusive young woman who falls in love with a handsome soldier played by the imaginative and intense talents of actor and singer Peter Oyloe. (Smith won her first Jeff theater award last year and Oyle is a three-time Jeff winner.)
Actress Collette Todd, with a golden voice and infectious smile, plays the soldier's true love as the magical two hours of the tale are told through music and song exploring the thorns of hidden desire and the meaning of true love.
Smith, with her powerful performance and hauntingly beautiful singing tones, is transformed before the audiences' eyes: one minute sick and desperate, while the next, hopeful and resplendent. Brooding Oyloe is a melancholy mix of yearning contrasted to a responsibility to those he cares about. The cast also includes John Leen as a forceful presence for the role of Colonel Ricci, Peter Vanvakas as the venerable Dr. Tambourri and Sean Knight, Anthony Apodaca, Christopher Logan, Ryan Armstrong, Sarah Larson, Sarah Simmons and Thom Britton in various other roles, while lending a powerful perfect blend of supporting voices in the ensemble.
Adam Veness, Brian Hoehne and Bill Morey have combined forces to create one of the most intimate, versatile and beautiful functional set designs I've seen in quite some time. The production offers a terrific tight direction by Fred Anzevino.
The last time I saw a production of "Passion" was in November 2007 with actress Ana Gasteyer playing the frail and pale lead Fosca at Chicago Shakespeare Theater at Navy Pier. (I didn't happen to catch earlier limited showcases of the musical while at Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, Ill. in August 2003 with Patti LuPone in the Fosca role.)
Theo Ubique Theatre Company was founded in 1997 by Fred Anzevino, artistic director, Matt Yde and Farell Wilson; then, incorporated in 2004. A wonderful aspect of this unique theater experience for this quaint 60-seat space is being able to dine during the show at one of the tiny stage tables. The menu for this run includes an appetizer of Chevre (goat cheese) spread on a crisp crostini bread and topped with fresh berry preserves and a garnish of baby spinach drizzled with basil oil. The main course (a vegetarian option is also available) is tender beef medallions with a red wine reduction served with Duchess potatoes and sauteed seasonal vegetables. Dessert is an arrangement of chocolate dipped fruit. A full bar is also available.
Show-only tickets are $34 for Thursdays and Sundays and $39 for Friday and Saturdays. There is a $4 discount for seniors and students. The dinner can be added to the ticket price for $25. There's plenty of street parking just steps away along Morse Avenue. FYI: (800) 595-4849 or theo-u.com