EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED Review – Next Theatre’s Production Rings with Irony, Discovery and Pathos

Plays like Everything is Illuminated are so multi-layered, it’s very difficult to separate the layers, see how (if!) they relate to one another and what that all means as part of a cohesive whole.  The challenge of sorting out is further complicated by the fact that Act One is funny in an edgy, irreverent way while Act Two is dramatic and filled with angst. Moreover, just when you think you’re onto the rhythm of the story, the author (main character/hero) decides to discuss his rights and responsibilities as the author with one of the characters.

The story:

Armed with only a yellowing photo, our hero, Jonathan Safran Foer (Brad Smith), starts off on an impossible quest: he wants to find the woman whom he believes may have saved his grandfather from the Nazis.  His “support team”: His driver is a “blind” old man (William J. Norris*) whose unsettling war memories fill him with self-loathing; an invisible, humping dog named Sammy Davis, Jr., Jr., and the world’s most preposterous translator, Alex (Alex Goodrich*).

Is Jonathan a modern day Don Quixote?  As we travel with this broken down troupe while they make their way over the scorched earth? We have to wonder.  Only a fool or a seeker of wisdom and truth would persevere in the face of such a daunting quest.  That gives you some idea of what happens in Act 1.

In Act 2, the pace changes dramatically. Literally.  Gone is the hilarity of Alex’s fractured English, the driving skills of a “blind” driver and the dog. The tone becomes dark, heartfelt, and disturbing. Led by Ann Whitney*’s character (is she the woman they seek?) whose painful memories come tumbling at us, we discover today’s version of the truth, clouded with distorted memories of a horror-filled time long ago. Still there is an incongruous tender moment where we least expected it.

Additional cast includes Sasha Gioppo, H.B. Ward, who add their contribution to the crazy quilt of characters.

Dieterich Gray* will be performing the role of “Alex” beginning March 21

The production team is made up of Grant Sabin (set design), Heather Gilbert (lighting design), Nick Keenan (sound design) and Mieka Van Der Ploeg (costume design).

*Indicates a member of Actors’ Equity.



Safran Foer is an American author best known for his novels Everything Is Illuminated (2002) and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2005).


Jonathan Safran Foer was born in 1977 in Washington, D.C. Safran Foer is the middle son of a tight-knit Jewish family; his older brother, Franklin, is the former editor of The New Republic and his younger brother Joshua is a freelance journalist. Safran Foer’s senior thesis at Princeton, where Joyce Carol Oates served as his advisor, received the Princeton's Senior Creative Writing Thesis Prize for his examination of the life of his maternal grandfather, the Holocaust survivor Louis Safran.



Simon Block is a Jewish writer from London who has written for the stage and screen.  His plays include Chimps, Not A Game for Boys, A Place at the Table and Everything is Illuminated.  He has written extensively for television, including the Inspector Lynley Mysteries for the BBC.


De Mayo is a founder and associate artistic director of Dog & Pony Theatre Company. She holds a MFA in Directing fromMiddlesexUniversity inLondon. De Mayo is the former director of arts education at Northlight Theatre.

EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED continues until March 31

The regular performance schedule is Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. There are Saturday 4 p.m. performances March 9, 16, 23 and 30. 


Every 2 p.m. Sunday matinee during the season is followed by a discussion with the artistic staff and artists involved in the production, as well as special guests familiar with the topic to be discussed.


Next Theatre Company produces socially provocative, artistically adventurous work. It is Next’s vision to become a destination for audiences and artists who share this vision that theatre can promote awareness and provoke change with more power than any other medium of expression.

The Next Theatre is located inside the Noyes Cultural Arts Center in Evanston, adjoining theNoyes street stop on theEvanston "el." Parking is available in the lot adjacent to the theatre and at theEvanstonCivicCenter.

Next Theatre Box Office hours are from 12 – 6 p.m. weekdays and two hours prior to curtain. All tickets are held at will-call until pick-up on the day of performance, unless the tickets have been purchased in person.


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