REVIEW: What’s to Fear? (Time of Your Life Players)

| October 21, 2010

Music to soothe the tough realities of aging

 

time of your life players

   
The Time of Your Life Players present
   
What’s To Fear?
   
Written and Directed by Avrum Krause
Music/Lyrics by Bryan Dunn
at
Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln (map)
through November 6  |  tickets: $15  |  more info

Reviewed by Paige Listerud

The Time of Your Life Players, who have just opened What’s To Fear? at the Greenhouse Theater Center, were founded to create musical comedies that speak to the experience and perspective of the elderly, as well as utilize the musical talents of performers ranging 50 to 70 years of age. As any afternoon at their latest production will reveal, these seniors are no slouches at generating fun, communal feeling while delicately addressing the challenges of growing older.

First of all, the band is tight. Music makes the show and Musical Director Julie B. Nichols has honed a cohesive ensemble that could give some paid professionals a run for their money. After-show discussion revealed the collaborative process that the players go through in the creation of each musical. The result is an obvious atmosphere of conviviality and gentle fun, as well as top-notch performances.

whats to fear Written and directed by Artistic Director Avrum Krause, with Bryan Dunn handling music and lyrics, What’s To Fear? explores the personal journey of a man who enters the golden years of his retirement only to have them rudely interrupted. Joe (Larry Hazard) is asked what he will do with his retirement time–“Clean the shed . . . read the Great Books in bed . . . pursue photography, study oceanography.” A world of choices, many that he has put off for years, seem to open before him. Unfortunately, prostate cancer has other ideas, and soon Joe must contend with his fears, the loss of control in his life, and the indignities of his new medical reality.

The production handles its heavy themes with a consciously light touch. Krause and Dunn never forget to bring humor into the scenario, balancing bad news with clever lyrics, whether its facing a ready-to-cut doctor, a male nurse who will show you how to clean your catheter, or contending with those romance and incontinent issues after the operation. In a creative dream depiction of Joe’s fears, Cancer (Mary Gault, also playing Joe’s wife, Ann) comes to Joe dressed as a woman in a black veil. It’s death as both danger and seduction set to a Latin beat.

The average Chicago theatergoer might find Krause and Dunn’s handling of prostate cancer just a little too light. But Krause has gone through this experience himself and knows the value of leavening harsh experience with equal parts philosophy and good humor. Besides, The Time of Your Life Players not only perform in general theater venues, but also take the show on the road to retirement communities, senior living facilities, religious institutions—anywhere they can find their senior audience. Their lead song says it all: “Growing Old is Not for Wimps” and don’t they all know it deeply, one player having survived cancer three times.

What’s To Fear? is that bit of sugar to make the hard times go by easier. What is beautiful about Krause and company is that they establish, through their music, an experience of community against what can be the lonely journey of facing chronic illness and mortality. Music binds their show from beginning to end. If Joe comes out of his ordeal with a deeper appreciation for life, that same music may help us to appreciate the trials and tribulations of growing old. We will be there too, someday.

   
   
Rating: ★★½
   
    

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Company Members

Avrum Krause, Director

Bryan Dunn, Musical Director

Aimee Bass, Asst. Producer

Sandy Lavorini – Judy, Keyboard

Larry Hazard – Bobby, Guitar

Bill Lange – Mo, Guitar

Donna Steele – Rose, Rhythm

Norm Kantor – Mr. P., Guitar

Merle Gordon – Angel

Charles "Chuck" Ramirez – Angel

Ken Stefancich – Angel Drummer

Paula Lange – Bass Guitar

Marge Weber – Angel

Steve Bishop – Guitar and Mandolin

Jimmy Reagan – Harmonica

Liz Paxinos – Understudy

Howard Solotroff, Lights

   
   

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Category: 2010 Reviews, Greenhouse Theater Center, Paige Listerud

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