OFFBEAT: 'In the Garden' details Darwin's fascinating personal struggles

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2014-06-07T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: 'In the Garden' details Darwin's fascinating personal strugglesBy Philip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

Charles Darwin and his theories of evolution and tireless research still grip conversations and debates today among scholars and religious leaders.

In his personal life, his wife Emma Wedgewood and his children were the representing force that served as his grounding foundation.

Continuing its 26th Season, Lookingglass Theatre Company is in the middle of their run for the World Premiere of "In the Garden: A Darwinian Love Story," by Artistic Associate Sara Gmitter and directed by Jessica Thebus.

Recently extended, it now continues until June 19 at Lookingglass Theatre, located inside Chicago's historic Water Tower Water Works, 821 N. Michigan Ave. at Pearson.

The stage story starts long before Darwin's published work "The Origin of Species" caused revelations to forever change the world.

At one point during this play, Darwin says to his wife something along the lines of "Don't you think God wants us to be curious?" His wife Emma responds with: "It was also curiosity that resulted in Adam and Eve to be cast out of the Garden of Eden."

Before I saw and enjoyed this engaging two-and-half hour play, I never realized the at-odds infused loving relationship shared between Darwin and his wife.

The cast includes Ensemble Member Andrew White delivering a gripping performance as Charles Darwin with actress Rebecca Spence perfectly cast as his likeable and loving, devoted wife Emma. The rest of this small, yet mighty cast, deserves to be highly commended for their own nods to and "evolution," of sorts. This group of remaining actors and actresses easily "evolve" as needed, and slip in and out of multiple roles. John Babbo is both Young Charles, as well as later playing the son of Darwin, while Caroline Heffernan plays Young Emma in addition to playing Darwin's daughter. Cindy Gold is fantastic playing a range of characters from a household maid to a family physician, and Austin Tichenor plays Dr. Darwin and a host of other solid portrayals.

The creative team for "In the Garden" includes Collette Pollard offering a flora and fauna stage paradise with her scenic design and a beautiful wardrobe parade is compliments of Mara Blumenfeld's costume design. The story's shifting mood is set by JR Lederle's lighting design, and Sarah Burnham has collected some of the most fun and unusual properties I've seen in sometime.

The Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago's landmark Water Tower Water Works opened in June 2003 and never disappoints the audience's imagination.

Performances  are 7:30 p.m. Tuesday June 10, 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays and Fridays and 3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Tickets are $45 - $70 at the Lookingglass box office, located at Water Tower Water Works, 821 N. Michigan Ave., or or (312) 337-0665.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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