Review “Ithaka” (Infusion Theatre): Redemption Play meets War Movie

Infusion Theatre presents the Midwest Premiere of ITHAKA.

Playwright Andrea Stolowitz pens a tale of Marine Captain Elaine Edwards (played by Meredith Rae Lyons).  Edwards returns home from a tour in Afghanistan.  Her reentry to civilization isn’t going smooth.  She can’t sleep.  Her cat has run away.  And her helpless husband offers no solace.  The sudden appearance of Evie (played by Anji White) lures her on a road trip to find answers.

Stolowitz’s play is drawn from her interviews with veterans and their families.  She gives us flashback scenes to piece together this war aftermath.  Her banter, especially between Lyons and White, is genuine.  It has the familiar comfortableness of a shared past.  In one scene, Lyons and White playfully debate breakfast cereals.  In a flashback, they cower during a shelling.  Later, they drive through the desert exuding an untroubled Thelma and Louise-style relationship.

Throughout the play, Lyons is overwrought. Her guardedness keeps her husband and the audience from connecting to her pain.  Her angst makes her almost unlikable. White counters Lyons’ cold detachment with a warmth.  Whether playing a cat or a soldier, White skillfully handles the drama with humor and honesty.  White’s feistiness helps Lyons release some tension and confront the truth.  As her shell cracks, Lyons gives us a glimmer of humanity.

Director Mitch Golob masterfully uses minimal scenery and maximum film footage to illustrate ITHAKA.  Scenic Designer Dave Ferguson created a metal structure that serves as a bed, a car, a counter and a rollercoaster car.  The efficiency in transformation is aided by Projections Designer Liviu Pasare’s impressive imagery.  Using a screen stretched across the stage, Pasare turns this play partially into a movie.  His vivid cinematography is transfixing… almost distracting.  His animation of a car trip and a roller coaster ride is practically motion-sickness inducing.  Later, the sun rising off a mountain is subtle and enchanting. I wasn’t aware of how primary the projections had become in storytelling until I’m staring at a picket fence and nothing happens.

ITHAKA is a thought-provoking redemption play meets war movie.  The story centers on the casualties of war from an insider’s perspective. The plethora of cool projections may divert focus from the play’s true intent.  In this war’s aftermath, the virtual reality on screen lingers in my mind as unforgettable.

Running Time:  Ninety minutes with no intermission

At Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division

Written by Andrea Stolowitiz

Directed by Mitch Golob

Thursdays, Friday, Saturdays at 7:30pm

Sundays at 3pm

Thru April 13th

Buy Tickets at www.infusiontheatre.com

Production photo by Cole Simon

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