TimeLine Theatre’s “The Apple Plays” Review – In the Belly of The Political Zeitgeist

No matter what your political persuasion, you might recall when Sarah Palin came out with one of her many catchphrases – “How’s that hopey changey thing working out for you?” 

She struck a nerve.  Many liberals and progressives were disaffected by continuing war, the failure to make hefty Wall St. reforms since the onset of the recession, or any number of other disappointments in Obama.  On the other hand, Palin’s quip went down big with tea partiers, as everything else she said and says.  Those less inclined to take one side or another politically were weary of recession and all the political infighting.  Many who loved Obama said, in so many words, “I just love the man, no matter what.”  The times were roiling.  Many would say they still are.


TimeLine’s “That Hopey Changey Thing” marches straight into the heart of this political beast.  We are in the dining room of the Apple family on election night 2010—specifically the caretaker elder sister’s house in suburban New York City (Barbara Apple played by Janet Ulrich Brooks).  Her two adult sisters are there (Marian Apple Platt played by Juliet Hart and Jane Apple Halls  played by), as is their attorney brother (Richard Apple, played by David Parkes).  

Their beloved Uncle Benjamin (Mike Nussbaum) who suffers from amnesia following a recent heart attack, has moved into Barbara’s house.  Jane’s new boyfriend (Tim Andrews played by PJ Powers) is making his debut with her sibling family. 

You don’t have to be as far away as China to sense the near identical political mindset of these siblings.  You could feel that way about the Apples if you lived in a nearby conservative enclave in upstate New York.   But in the hair’s breadth or sometimes lock of hair distance between them, there is great passion to duke it out.   Hearts are worn on tongues and they are wagging.   

Even the siblings feigning less political interest are clearly consumed by it.

Playwright Richard Nelson has so completely captured and granularly mapped the political zeitgeist of the times that your biggest challenge with this play is in restraining yourself from budding into the conversation.  

In the program notes Nelson is quoted as being concerned that he has written a play with so many reference points to current events that it won’t stand the test of time.  Quite the contrary, I can’t think that there will be a better primer for future sociology and political science courses on new millennial culture than the script of “That Hopey Changey Thing”. 

Though you can see the sequel play with the same characters, “Sorry”, on another day, this reviewer recommends that you take on the double header in one day to get the full wallop—not small—of living with the Apple family in this far more personal family hour. 

This is Election Day two years later, but also the day when the family is slated to bring Uncle Benjamin, who has deteriorated a good deal, to a nursing home. 



The preoccupation with politics that the siblings share takes a back seat to the family drama unfolding.  More accurately, it is not backseat but backdrop to all the events that have unfolded in the last few years and that take place that day.   

The script, the acting, the direction (Director:  Lou Contey), all are simply perfect. 

Let’s hope that TimeLine Theatre will produce the remaining two Apple plays in their next season.

“That Hopey Changey Thing” and “Sorry” are on a rotating schedule now through April 19 that will allow you to see one or both plays, on one or two days, as you wish.

For tickets and information call the TimeLine Theatre Box Office at 773 281 8463 or visit the TimeLine Theatre website.

TimeLine Theatre

615 West Wellington



Photos:  Lara Goetsch








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