Serenading Reality: Totally Human (What Are You Holding On To?) | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Serenading Reality: Totally Human (What Are You Holding On To?) 

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Just like a woman who spends hours before the mirror trying to achieve a natural look, actors and writers often struggle through years of training, practice, and introspection hoping to get to something "real." Little do we know that the truth is not something to work toward but something to simply let happen. This ensemble--made up of four professional actors and 13 Thresholds members living with paranoid schizophrenia, personality disorders, depression, and anxiety--has clearly gotten this message. Given the show's description, I half expected to feel like a voyeur at a group therapy session. What a pleasant surprise to discover Dorothy Plaut's colorful, joyful, painful pieces about her five engagements, Cathy Lewis's poignant and wise song about creating a balance between protecting children and letting them go, and Cheryl Almgren's tale about turning a period of mandatory bed rest into a five-day New Year's Eve party. Directors Marti Szalai-Raymond and Brighid O'Shaughnessy have orchestrated this real-life raw material into a vibrant collage of storytelling, song, and improv. Yes, the struggles of mental illness are acknowledged, but the subjects are universal--surviving and loving in the face of life's challenges. The trained actors keep the energy flowing, although at times their technique stands out like blue eye shadow on an otherwise naked face. Serenading Reality is not your typically sculpted dramatic story, but if you're looking for glimpses of truth onstage, this is a good place to start. Griffin Theatre Company, Calo Theatre, 5404 N. Clark, 773-281-3800, ext. 2417. Through August 8: Mondays-Wednesdays, 8 PM. $15 ("pay what you can" for Thresholds members).

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