Ancestral Voices: A Family Story | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Ancestral Voices: A Family Story 

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ANCESTRAL VOICES: A FAMILY STORY, North Lakeside Players, at North Lakeside Cultural Center. A tale spanning six decades is the stuff of Victorian novels--a point conceded by playwright A.R. Gurney in this chamber-theater work, where the actors are equipped only with chairs, scripts, and their interpretations of the text. Here a quintet of North Lakeside Players (the actors vary throughout the run) evokes stately panoramas and the drama of an insular world, where shopping for one's own groceries or marrying outside one's faith are revolutionary acts.

It was customary in 1938, we're told, for the privileged classes of Buffalo, New York, to identify their houses and other possessions by the names of the previous owners. In this society, where even the punch cups have a genealogy, it's no surprise that the playwright should focus on the spiritual inheritance passed from one generation to the next. The narrator's story revolves around the legacy of his grandmother's decision to divorce his grandfather and marry the latter's best friend, a radical move engendering social censure. But from suffering are sown the seeds of liberation, which come to flower amid the turmoil of World War II.

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