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Review Fri Apr 20 2012

The March @ The Steppenwolf Theatre

TheMarch_Production01.jpgIn November and December of 1864 General William Tecumseh Sherman lead 62,000 Union soldiers through Georgia, from Atlanta to Savannah, on what came to be known as Sherman's March to the Sea. As the soldiers demolished everything in their path, refugees collected and joined the march so it became a swelling unit of black and white southerners and northerners, all with no one place to call home.

The history books will tell of General Sherman's campaign, which severely debilitated the south in the Civil War. However, The March, as adapted by Steppenwolf Ensemble Member Frank Galati from the book by E.L. Doctorow, tells the unrecorded chronicles of the individuals that didn't make history. This isn't a story of war; it's a story of people.

Consistent, but malleable, the characters show a sense of duality that allows them to survive. A high-class confederate woman becomes the assistant to a Union doctor; a mixed-race girl and newly freed slave passes as a white drummer boy; a confederate deserter teams up with a man whose loyalty can be swayed in amount of the time it takes to change his coat.

Even General Sherman, whose eccentricities and depth are brilliantly portrayed by Harry Groener, shows no real sympathy for civil liberties or pursuing a noble cause, yet he's commanding a game changing campaign for the Union. Still, he shows tenderness as he silently mourns the death of his young son.

The show is infused with poignant drama, courage and even humor juxtaposed to the dismal march and war at large. The set and sounds draw the audience in to the story, as songs and music of the time are incorporated into scenes or serve as transitions. The performances are true and intimate, grasping complex characters and communicating more than history.

When the war is over, both sides are left picking up the pieces and dealing with the consequences. The truths exposed in The March are as relevant today as they were in 1864. In a Steppenwolf interview, Frank Galati says, "Tragedy has no bias." And that fact is evident in the final scenes. Still, there is a message of hope for the future that is won through great trials.

The March is performed in the Downstairs Theater of the Steppenwolf and will run through June 10, 2012. Tickets are $20-$78 and can be purchased at Audience Services (1650 N Halstead St.) or online at www.steppenwolf.org. Student discounts can be found online at www.steppenwolf.org/students.

 
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