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Review Tue Apr 02 2013

Next Theater Company: "The Bitch and the Jew Will Share the Back Seat"

Thumbnail image for EverythingisIlluminated_1.jpg

Outside of Geneva, Switzerland, is a giant, revolutionary machine called the Large Hadron Collider. This machine is a particle accelerator that mocks the conditions directly following the Big Bang that supposedly created the universe. To operate the machine, physicists fire two beams of sub-atomic particles called hadrons (either protons or lead ions) directly at each other. The beams gain energy as they travel around the massive, circular tunnel and when they collide, newly created particles explode in every direction in a miniature representation of the beginnings of the galaxy. This whole concept is crazy but incredibly powerful. In the same way, Next Theater Company's production of Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything is Illuminated is a play that forces extreme opposites to collide with spectacular results. The first act left the audience bent in half laughing, and yet in the second, there wasn't a dry eye in the theater.

This play, based on a novel, is a Holocaust tale, but unlike many movies and documentaries that have painted the picture of widespread horror, this story focuses on the tragedy within each individual who lost someone dear to them. It raises questions concerning the boundaries of courage and cowardice in the worst of times, when a man is forced to choose between his family and his neighbor. Although this genocide lies in the past, the wounds of those who remember never really heal.

The first act starts on a positive, hilarious note. The audience meets Alex (Alex Goodrich), the young, enthusiastic and good-hearted Ukrainian "translator," his grumpy, war-torn grandfather (William J. Norris), and the invisible dog, Sammy Davis, Jr. Jr. The three wait at the train station for their traveling guest, Jonathan (Brad Smith), a writer who has come across the world with only a photograph in his hands and characters in his head in search of his past.

Suddenly, as Alex and Jonathan stand next to each other for the first time, we see two men, young and hungry for the world, who live in two completely different universes, made only more apparent by the racial slurs thrown into the conversation. As the play moves forward, we realize that these two will be made inseparable by what happened decades before.

With the second act, the audience begins to see the complexity of Alex. On the surface, he seems to be just a boy after some tail, but the events of the past force him to show his unending dedication to the good and the right. Although he is rash, he is committed to the truth. Goodrich brings incredible depth to his character.

I was impressed most by the "translating," and how little it bothered me. Alex's grandfather does not speak English, even though the audience hears it as such. We hear nearly three quarters of the lines in the play repeated twice. I am one to be bothered by repetitive things as simple as someone clicking a pen in a quiet train car, but for some reason, maybe the acting or the emphasis that was laid on the lines, this only made the performance more powerful.

I am excited that this play has been extended through April 14. It was great enough to see again. The show plays at various times Thursday through Sunday in Evanston, at Noyes Cultural Arts Center, 927 Noyes St. Tickets range from $7 to $40; for more information, call 847-475-1875.

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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