Chicago Dramatists has opened their 34th Season on a strong foothold with "Freshly Fallen Snow" written by M.E.H. Lewis and directed by Associate Artistic Director Meghan Beals McCarthy.
The run started Sept. 20 and it closes this weekend on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012.
I finally caught a performance of it on Thursday and this is an impressive, sound two-hour one-intermission story that has audience impact, in addition to entertaining qualities.
These are not two traits easy to make happen an in the same work.
In "Freshly Fallen Snow," Dr. Jane Smith, played by the versatile and commanding talent that is actress Kirsten D'Aurelio, pioneers a controversial new treatment for traumatic memory disorders, a procedure that will "edit" memories. Her reluctant first patient is AJ, played with electric energy by Kelly O'Sullivan, a terribly scarred female veteran of the Iraq War. The driving force behind the doctor's ambitions and the person she most wants to heal is her own mother, played by the amazing stage force in the form of actress Ann Whitney, as a haunted survivor of World War II's Dresden Firestorm. For both the mother and AJ, the real sources of their pain are lies and truths, long buried in their memories.
Inspired by actual scientific research, I'm told "Freshly Fallen Snow" is intended to be "an exploration of the memories that shape us, the stories we tell the world, and the dark space that lies between the two."
The production also stars the ensemble talents of Abu Ansari, Michael McKeogh and Mildred Langford, with Becky Mork as the production manager with scenic design by Courtney O'Neill, lighting design by Casey Diers, costume design by Ruthanne Swanson and projections design by Davonte Johnson.
When I joined the Thursday night audience, we were fortunate enough to have the playwright in the front row of the audience joining us.
"I'm thrilled to work with Chicago Dramatists," she said.
"This organization is a great service of support for playwrights, and I've always admired their bold vision of Chicago theatre."
The director is just as excited about her vision of presenting this work.
"This is a fantastic play that really delves into the meaning and emotional effect of deeply buried memories," said Director Meghan Beals McCarthy.
"With hundreds of thousands of soldiers returning home from war in the past year, the story of those affected by war and the loved ones that want to help them will surely resonate with today's audiences."
As for the playwright, M.E.H. Lewis is an internationally produced, award-winning playwright and a two-time Illinois Arts Council Fellow. Lewis' work has been seen around the world, most recently at Detroit Rep and Citadel Theatre, and has earned several awards including the Julie Harris Award, the FutureFest Outstanding Playwright, the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best New Work, two Ragdale Residencies and a Tremain Fellowship. Two of her plays will be featured in the 2012 International Women's Theatre Conference in Stockholm.
Lewis is a resident playwright at Chicago Dramatists and a member of The Dramatists Guild.
Tickets for "Freshly Fallen Snow" are on sale now and the remaining performances are 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $32. FYI: chicagodramatists.org or (312) 633-0630.