Thursday, June 09, 2011

Astute Script, Unforgettable Performances Power Great New Play About Alzheimer's -- Theater Review: The Outgoing Tide

Theater Review

The Outgoing Tide
a world premiere play by Bruce Graham
Northlight Theatre, Skokie, IL
Thru June 26, 2011

The Tony Awards will be presented this Sunday night. In order to be eligible for awards honoring the best of the 2010-11 season, theatrical productions must have opened on Broadway by April 28, 2011

Although I haven't seen any of the shows nominated for Best New Play--nor any productions on Broadway in the past year--I'm confident that had The Outgoing Tide opened about three weeks earlier than it did, with the exact same cast, in a Times Square theater rather than at The North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, it would have earned a Tony nomination. As undoubtedly would its star, John Mahoney, and likely his two co-stars, Rondi Reed and Thomas Cox. (Mahoney and Reed are already Tony winners).

Produced by the routinely superb Northlight Theatre, the world premiere drama by Bruce Graham stands as the best play I've seen this year, and that includes the Goodman Theatre production of God Of Carnage, which earned the Best New Play Tony in 2009.

I feel lucky that Northlight performs 5 minutes from my home, attracts world-class talent--and Chicago stalwarts--like Mahoney and Reed and offers "Day of Show" discount tickets for $20 when available (call 847-673-6300). For this play, about a man afflicted with Alzheimer's Disease facing both his future and his past, is well-worth the effort for anyone to get to; on a trip to New York or London, you'd be unlikely to see a new dramatic work that's any better.

There are some twists and surprises from the beginning of the narrative, so I'll share very little of the play's plot, but Mahoney delivers a masterful performance as Gunner, a retired businessman not willing to passively accept the ravages of senility. His relationship with his wife, Peg (Reed), is not a simple one; she is doting but often harsh, inherently sympathetic to his plight but at times exasperated to the point of cruelty.

To see these two veterans--plus the also very fine Cox--interact for 2 hours would be worth the ticket price in itself, but Graham's script is shrewd, poignant, thought-provoking and even quite humorous. Director BJ Jones does a great job of never letting it get too cloying, or even predictable, and even the stage set would suffice just fine in a small Broadway house.  

Regular followers of Seth Saith may be ready to submit an entry to Ripley's Believe It or Not, for this is my third straight @@@@@ review. That's never happened before. But The Outgoing Tide is that good; if justice is to be served, it may yet earn a Tony nom--amidst a successful Broadway run.

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