Monday, May 08, 2006

Love-Lies-Bleeding (The SOB Review) - Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago, IL

Love-Lies-Bleeding (The SOB Review) - Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago, IL

***1/2 (out of ****)

No matter which side you took during last year’s dramatic debate over the tragic Terry Schiavo case, chances are it compelled you to take action. Whether it was contacting your Member of Congress or enlisting your attorney to draw up a living will, chances are you had a strong opinion on whether anyone can or should terminate a life, or a shadow of one. The issue likely stayed with you.

So it’s against that backdrop that Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre premiered one of the year’s most riveting dramas embodied in Don DeLillo’s Love-Lies-Bleeding. Whatever your moral convictions, DeLillo expertly weaves together both sides of the heartbreaking debate on when or if it’s ever appropriate to end another living being’s life. To be frank, I walked into this production fully anticipating that the Amy Morton-directed study in human emotions would be completely lopsided. Rather than being preachy, it provides a thoughtful analysis of what’s truly at stake on all sides.

Steppenwolf’s astounding Artistic Director Martha Lavey takes to the stage in a tremendously nuanced multi-dimensional performance as Toinette, former wife of the patient whose life hangs in the balance. She and her stepson attempt to convince her ex’s current wife Lia -- played with emotional conviction and depth by Penelope Walker -- to pull the plug on a life that is described as a persistent vegetative state. Seemingly, nothing could move Lia to pull the plug on the man whom she knows like none other. Through flashbacks, we get insight into what made life worth living, whether or not it was to continue.

As much as I admired this production, including the wonderful use of lighting to convey various moods and settings, the biggest drawback was the juxtaposition of using both John Heard and Larry Kucharik to portray the same husband and father, Alex, in various state of being. Heard seemed capable of handling the role of Alex after a stroke, but I left wondering why he couldn’t also portray Alex in extremis (my intellectual companion didn’t realize that they were, in fact, the same character until I explained it).

This play will help the dialogue continue, because it will stay with you. (In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that I am an enthusiastic member of Steppenwolf's Auxiliary Council Board of Governors.)

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.
Related Stories:
DeLillo's Love-Lies-Bleeding Transfers to Kennedy Center (May 25, 2006)
Cautious Recommendations for Love-Lies-Bleeding (May 8, 2006)
Love-Lies-Bleeding Opens Tonight in Chicago (May 7, 2006)

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