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  • Angela Allyn

Happiest Middle Age to Curious Theatre Branch

It was the best of times: celebrating 35 years of truly great theater (which when you start out as Fringe storefront is quite an accomplishment), and the worst of times: an industry in transition with institutions downsizing and critics bemoaning the death of American Theater.

Gathering together for the premiere of Moon at the Bottom of the Ocean at the intimate Chicago Dramatists space for opening night felt a lot like finding a port in a very big storm. Oh, this opening night was a party! A reunion of many long standing artists and it was a beautiful experience of storytelling.

To say Bryn Magnus has a way with words is like saying Lake Michigan is wet. This show, now on view at Chicago Dramatists on Chicago Avenue until September 23, is a transcendent reflection on relationship, on yearning, on what noted couples therapist Terry Real calls normal marital hatred and it is a manifesto on the insecurity of making art with a sidebar to the Imposter Syndrome. It was real, hysterically funny, heartbreaking and artfully crafted, revealing itself like a poetic novel.

Les (Vicki Walden) and Paul (Jeffrey Bivens) have been together for years. She sings, he writes. There are day gigs. He hires a PI, Vera, (Julia Williams) with icy wit to find out how his arch nemesis manages to become so successful. The PI goes to Les who hires her to read Paul’s work which he has never let her read. There are betrayals all around. In the end there is transformation: I can say no more without ruining it. This is a tale that moves intentionally, fulfillingly, forward and doesn’t always let the audience see what is coming next. The 90 minute show even has time for a 10 minute intermission to catch up with fellow audience members who you have not seen in a while.

This is the kind of theater that has meat on its bones so you can suck it to the marrow. Director Jenny Magnus and co-pilot Charlotte Lastra must have had so much fun going on the adventure of bringing this new play to life: there is a joyous fun energy holding up this vulnerable offering.

Chicago Theater will continue its life affirming, human centered tradition for a long time if work like this keeps getting made. Get down to Chicago Dramatists for a night and savor this delicious show.

Moon at the Bottom of the Ocean is playing at Chicago Dramatists at 1105 West Chicago Avenue (entrance is actually around the corner from this address) on several Friday and Sunday nights, most Saturdays until September 23rd. For tickets and information go to

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