Hannah Free | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Hannah Free 

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HANNAH FREE, Victory Gardens Theater. Four years after Hannah Free premiered during a Bailiwick Pride Performance Series, playwright Claudia Allen is no closer to turning this heartfelt assemblage of rustic reminiscences and lesbian lasciviousness into a play. The indefatigable Hannah, 80-something and hospitalized after falling while shoveling snow from the roof, can't see her lifelong lover Rachel, comatose just down the hall, because Rachel's homophobic daughter won't allow it. Allen draws a few compelling fragments from this dramatic premise but more often allows Hannah to wax nostalgic over her tumultuous life with Rachel: a free-spirited aviatrix, Hannah always flew away, while the image-conscious homebody Rachel always stayed put. Then Rachel's ghost appears, and the two fight about how Hannah always flew away and Rachel always stayed put. Then a half dozen flashbacks show how Hannah always flew away and Rachel always--well, you get the point.

Allen writes with genuine warmth and emotional depth, plumbed by Victory Gardens' committed cast. But as in so much television-era theater, no scene lasts longer than ten minutes, and wacky characters--a senile old man, a ditsy nurse--have a way of stumbling in to lighten things up. If Allen had spent more time developing her story than deflecting it, she might finally have found a play.

--Justin Hayford


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