Alias Grace | Rivendell Theatre | Theater & Performance | Chicago Reader
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click to enlarge Ashley Neal and Steve Haggerty

Ashley Neal and Steve Haggerty

Michael Brosilow

When: Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through Oct. 15 2017
Price: $38, $28 students, seniors, military
Margaret Atwood’s unimaginative, heavy-handed 1996 novel, which uses the lurid 1843 murder conviction of 16-year-old domestic servant Grace Marks to draw easy antipatriarchal moral lessons, gets an unimaginative, heavy-handed stage adaptation from playwright Jennifer Blackmer. But against tall odds director Karen Kessler and her stalwart cast imbue the staid, schematic proceedings with vibrant life in this Rivendell world premiere. Each actor in the story’s central triangle—Ashley Neal as the convicted murderer, Jane Baxter Miller as her none-too-enlightened jailer, Steve Haggard as the none-too-enlightened doctor tending to both women’s contradictory needs—brings an eye for nuanced detail (Miller’s inscrutable smile is impossibly layered), turning near stock characters into compelling conundrums. The rest of the cast isn’t far behind. Excepting the preposterous climax, these two hours are unexpectedly captivating. —Justin Hayford

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