Review: Going to a Place Where You Already Are (Redtwist Theatre)

| June 30, 2017

Collin Quinn Rice and Kathleen Ruhl star as Angel and Roberta in Going to a Place, Redtwist            
      

  

Going to a Place
  Where You Already Are
 

Written by Bekah Brunstetter
Redtwist Theatre, 1044 W. Bryn Mawr (map)
thru July 23  |  tix: $30-$35  |  more info   
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     


    
  

More Hallmark movie than nuanced drama

  

Collin Quinn Rice, Kathleen Ruhl and Art Fox star in Going to a Place, Redtwist Theatre

    
Redtwist Theatre presents
    
Going to a Place Where You Already Are

Review by Lauren Whalen

The act of dying often isn’t a simple one. When someone receives a life-threatening diagnosis, they often begin to evaluate exactly where they are in life, particularly regarding the big things like love and faith. Going to a Place Where You Already Are is a play about dying, faith and what happens when the two come together. Both dying and faith are incredibly nuanced, complex concepts, yet Bekah Brunstetter’s script reduces them Kathleen Ruhl and Art Fox star as Roberta and Joe in Going to a Place Where Already Are at Redtwistto Hallmark movie-level tropes, peppered with platitudes and clichés. Redtwist Theatre’s season closer is indeed about lost opportunities, but not in terms of main character Roberta and her family. Instead, the audience mourns the lack of clear direction, good acting and a compelling story.

Going to a Place Where You Already Are opens with a funeral, and an old couple whisper-chatting in a pew. Roberta (Kathleen Ruhl) and Joe (Art Fox) are happily retired and, even after decades of marriage, still madly in love. They’re also proud atheists, confident in their shared belief that this life is the only one we’ve got. Things change when Roberta is diagnosed with brain cancer and given mere weeks to live. Joe’s still an atheist, but Roberta begins to ponder the notion of an afterlife, especially when she experiences visions of a young man (Collin Quinn Rice) clad in white who shares her love of ice cream. Meanwhile, Roberta and Joe’s granddaughter Ellie (Abby Dillon) wrestles with grief over Roberta’s terminal illness and a budding relationship with Jonas (Joel Rodriguez), who has his own set of challenges.

This is the play’s Chicago premiere, and yet I feel like I’ve seen it all before. Brunstetter’s script achieves new heights of predictability, from the stages of grief from both Joe and Ellie, to Roberta’s insistence that there may be a God after all, to the not-so-surprising twist regarding the young man in white. The play could have gone in so many unexpected directions, as the business of dying (and leaving loved ones behind) and the big existential questions of the universe are both ripe for intelligent exploration. Instead, the playwright took the easy way out, at every opportunity.

Kathleen Ruhl and Collin Quinn Rice star as Roberta and Angel in Going to a Place, RedtwistJoel Rodriguez and Abby Dillion star as Jonas and Ellie in Going to a Place, Redtwist Theatre Art Fox and Collin Quinn Rice star as Joe and Angel in Going to a Place, Redtwist TheatreCollin Quinn Rice and Kathleen Ruhl star as Angel and Roberta in Going to a Place, Redtwist Kathleen Ruhl and Art Fox star as Roberta and Joe in Going to a Place, Redtwist TheatreKathleen Ruhl and Abby Dillion star as Roberta and Ellie in Going to a Place, Redtwist

Though the script is most at fault, Redtwist’s production could be better with stronger direction and acting. The transitions are very slow, and the actors (particularly Ruhl, who’s onstage for most of the show) have trouble remembering lines and picking up cues. Dillon is a talented actress, but her character is underwritten and formulaic, so she can’t do much with it, and Fox has a tendency to overact. Rodriguez has some nice moments as Ellie’s patient, empathetic lover, and Rice nearly saves the whole sinking ship, elevating an often silly character into one that’s kind, open and very watchable.

Going to a Place Where You Already Are attempts a heartfelt family-centric exploration into what we leave behind and what we may be moving toward. Instead, it has all the saccharine faux-emotion and contrived plot of every single soft-focused cancer drama you’ve ever seen. Playwright Brunstetter tries over and over, but each time she stumbles, and Redtwist can’t make much out of the shoddy source material.

  
Rating: ★★½
  

Going to a Place Where You Already Are continues through July 23rd at Redtwist Theatre, 1044 W. Bryn Mawr (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays 7:30pm, Sundays 3pm.  Tickets are $30-$35 (seniors/students: $5 off), and are available by phone (773-728-7529) or online through their website (check for availability of half-price tickets). More information at Redtwist.org(Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission)

Abby Dillion and Joel Rodriguez star as Ellie and Jonas in Going to a Place, Redtwist Theatre

Photos by Jan Ellen Graves


  

artists

cast

Abby Dillion (Ellie), Art Fox (Joe), Collin Quinn Rice (Angel), Joel Rodriguez (Jonas), Kathleen Ruhl (Roberta)

Understudies: Sharon Aiello (Roberta), Chris Bruzzini (Joe), Daniel Dauphin (Jonas), Maeli Goren (Ellie), Eric Parmer (Angel)

behind the scenes

Matt Hawkins (director), Madison Smith (assistant director), Jenn M. Thompson (stage manager), Alex Beal, Cora Lynn Swise (assistant stage managers), Yeaji Kim (set design), David Goodman-Edberg (lighting design), Sarah D. Espinoza (sound design), Kotryna Hilko (costume design), Janet Lewis (props design), Josh Hurley (technical director, set builder), Kevin Rolfs (scenic charge), Catherine Miller (casting director), E. Malcolm Martinez (box office manager), Charles Bonilla, Johnny Garcia (box office associates), Jan Ellen Graves (graphics, marketing, photos, co-producer), Michael Colucci (co-producer)

Kathleen Ruhl and Art Fox star as Roberta and Joe in Going to a Place Where Already Are, Redtwist Collin Quinn Rice and Kathleen Ruhl star as Angel and Roberta in Redtwist Theatre's "Going to a Place Where You Already Are" by Bekah Brunstetter, directed by Matt Hawkins.

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Category: 2017 Reviews, Lauren Whalen, Redtwist Theatre

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