Voice of the Prairie | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Voice of the Prairie 

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Voice of the prairie, Dolphinback Theatre Company, at Live Bait Theater. Lovers cruelly separated once had to rely on fate to be reunited, but the advent of wireless radio opened up new opportunities--or so David Quinn hopes, as he recounts his tales of the courageous blind girl he loved and lost while they were on the run from their parents. Will his airborne plea cross the continent to find her? Will she return? Will love, even in the cynical modern world of 1923, conquer all?

Eternal devotion is a quaint, archaic phrase in the cynical modern world of 1997, when sentimentality is passed off as romance and sweet words are an invitation to ridicule. But John Olive's Voice of the Prairie takes us back to the dawn of a century filled with possibility, and damned if he doesn't make us believe in the optimism at the root of what we call the American spirit (itself a product of the romantic age). Assisted by Gregory Werstler's delicate directorial touch, the committed actors make even the most extreme personalities--and Michael Dowd's city-slick entrepreneur veers precariously close to caricature, as does Matt Wallace's love-smitten preacher--plausible and human.

Emotionally expressive and inexpressive theatergoers alike are warned to bring spare hankies. No one need feel shame at being affected by a play that earns every tear it wrings. --Mary Shen Barnidge

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