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Shattered Globe’s “Marvin’s Room” Review – Seizing Every Live Theater Advantage

By Amy Munice

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(left to right) Rebecca Jordan and Linda Reiter in Shattered Globe Theatre’s 25 anniversary production of MARVIN’S ROOM by Scott McPherson, directed by Sandy Shinner. Photo by Michael Brosilow

 

As the fourth wall was lifted by bows from the cast, the emotional impact of Shattered Globe’s production of “Marvin’s Room” was continuing to ripple in the room.  Shattered Globe ensemble members and lead actresses Linda Reiter, who played Bessie, and Rebecca Jordan, who played her sister Lee, were still teary-eyed from the climatic end scenes of the play.  To look at them too directly or long was to risk sobbing.  Better to jump to our feet and join the standing ovation and swallow the lump in our throat.

 

In what one imagines is a career milestone performance, Reiter had deftly navigated all the potential pitfalls of over simplifying the Alpha-caretaker personality character Bessie as she wrangles with leukemia, her pending death, and how to arrange care for her very ill aunt and father.  

 

(left to right) Nate Santana and Linda Reiter in Shattered Globe Theatre’s 25 anniversary production of MARVIN’S ROOM by Scott McPherson, directed by Sandy Shinner. Photo by Michael Brosilow

 

Never overacting, Reiter so expertly brought Bessie to life in a way one can’t help but imagine would thrill the late playwright of “Marvin’s Room”, Scott McPherson.   Reiter’s performance is simply a theater milestone that should put this production of “Marvin’s Room” on any Chicago theatergoers shortlist of must-sees this season.

 

(left to right) Rebecca Jordan and Linda Reiter in Shattered Globe Theatre’s 25 anniversary production of MARVIN’S ROOM by Scott McPherson, directed by Sandy Shinner. Photo by Michael Brosilow

 

Not that the rest of the cast is in any way lacking.   We quake with Rebecca Jordan’s ever-present emotional churn as Reiter’s sister Lee, or more to the point, as the mother of troubled teen Hank, played by Nate Santana.  

 

(left to right) Rebecca Jor

 

Santana in turn hits exactly the right note of conveying his character’s patina of menace that attempts to hide his ever so vulnerable underbelly.   And if anyone who saw “August Osage County” didn’t already get that Deanna Dunagan is an outstandingly superb performer, they should come see her performance here as the dotty Aunt Ruth, which is about as far as you can get from her Violet character in “August Osage County”.   No danger of Dunagan being typecast now!

 

(left to right) Deanna Dunagan and Linda Reiter in Shattered Globe Theatre’s 25 anniversary production of MARVIN’S ROOM by Scott McPherson, directed by Sandy Shinner. Photo by Michael Brosilow

 

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that if you have seen the star-studded performances in the movie of “Marvin’s Room” there is no reason to see this play. 

 

(left to right) Rebecca Jordan, Linda Reiter and Deanna Dunagan in Shattered Globe Theatre’s 25 anniversary production of MARVIN’S ROOM by Scott McPherson, directed by Sandy Shinner. Photo by Michael Brosilow

 

This production, under the direction of Sandy Shinner, seems to seize all the advantages that live performance affords to bring the story to life.   For example, you may not be able to stop smiling in admiration during darkened stage scene changes when the actors’ gestures in the shadows presage the dialogue to follow.  Or, when an angry Hank loudly throws a toolbox down in anger we feel the pulsing airwaves because we are there in the room with him.  Not only does this poignant script avoid the predictable Hollywood ending you get in the film, but it also seems inherently more at home on the stage where it was born.

 

(left to right) Nate Santana, Kyle Klein II, Rebecca Jordan, Linda Reiter and Deanna Dunagan in Shattered Globe Theatre’s 25 anniversary production of MARVIN’S ROOM by Scott McPherson, directed by Sandy Shinner. Photo by Michael Brosilow.

 

McPherson’s script, which was actually first performed on Chicago stages was penned during a time when the playwright, who eventually died of AIDS, was surrounded by the toll of the plague before the HIV cocktail of drugs came to be.  McPherson’s program notes for a production 25 years ago wrote, “…Our friends have AIDS.  And we all take care of each other, the less sick caring for the more sick.  At times, an unbelievingly harsh fate is transcended by a simple act of love, by caring for another…”

 

McPherson gives us gallows humor depictions of medical care and an ever keen ear for how relations – siblings, children, mother, aunt—navigate conversations when they are coming from such different places.

 

Memorable script, superb acting, highly recommended.

 

Shattered Globe Theatre’s “Marvin’s Room”.

 

Now through November 14, 2015.

 

Theater Wit

1229 West Belmont

Chicago, IL

 

For tickets or information call the Theater Wit box office at 773 975 8150 or visit the Theater Wit website. 

 

 

 

Published on Oct 11, 2015

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