The Years | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Years 

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Center Theater Ensemble.

One by one the husbands have left, and the women seek solace at fashionable European retreats. Big sister Isabella fusses over appearances, cousin Eloise drones promarriage sentimentalities, and both of them alternately bully and ignore saintly little brother Andrew. This is a family so shaky that when little sister Andrea is mugged and robbed--but not hurt--on her wedding day, the entire clan is thrown into turmoil for the next 16 years.

Like her earlier Brilliant Traces, Cindy Lou Johnson's The Years depends on intense attention to the details of character to flesh out the sketchy script, but director Suellen Cottrill and her cast have apparently overlooked this fact. These six actors--nearly uniform in age, ethnicity, and vocal range--convey the text but none of the subtext that might establish individual personalities. The family members--and the mugger, for that matter--might all be the same character spieling the same psychobabble (though Tim Miller's ironic humor and Jennifer Baron's bossy business distinguish Andrew and Isabella from the others, if only at times). When Johnson finally makes her point--that we're too caught up in our own petty concerns to appreciate life's small joys--it occurs to us that Our Town made the same point 57 years ago. The difference is that one family is not a community. And what could have been in more perceptive hands a touching microcosmic parable here seems merely another dysfunctional-family ritual.

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