Everything Is Illuminated | Next Theatre Company | Theater & Performance | Chicago Reader
This is a past event.
When: Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through March 31 2013
Price: $35-$40
The first question anyone should ask before adapting a book for the stage is, Why? British writer Simon Block came up with what must’ve seemed like a reasonable answer. His version of Jonathan Safran Foer’s antic 2003 novel dwells on the nature of storytelling, and, particularly, the responsibilities of the storyteller. Ironically, in order to do that in a theatrically viable way, Block had to sacrifice one of the key methods by which Foer himself tells his story. In Everything Is Illuminated, a phobic, compulsive twentysomething New York Jew named Jonathan Safran Foer takes a trip to Ukraine in hopes of solving a family mystery. But Foer-the-character isn’t Foer-the-writer’s primary narrator; that role falls to Alex, a tour guide who speaks comically yet compellingly in broken English. Processing events through Alex is a masterstroke and the trigger for all sorts of fascinating ambiguities. Although Alex addresses us in Block’s adaptation, the narrative is no longer his in the same, essential way. Consequently, that narrative fragments--and, worse, loses the almost mythic dimension that distinguishes the book. What’s left is several story strands that don’t quite mesh. Still, Devon de Mayo and her cast make the best of what they’ve got. Alex Goodrich radiates sweetness as Alex, William J. Norris radiates the scent of ammonia as Alex’s caustic granddad, and Ann Whitney simply radiates, beautifully, as the woman at the heart of Foer’s mystery. Brad Smith’s Jonathan is human in a way that Elijah Wood just isn’t in the 2005 movie. --Tony Adler



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