Lifeline Theatre presents A WRINKLE IN TIME.
Here’s the wrinkle… Something unusual happened to me at Lifeline Theatre last night, I didn’t enjoy myself. I’ve gotten used to being spoiled at Lifeline as I curl up with their latest adaptation. I’m typically fully engaged in their ability to bring page to stage. I settled in to be dazzled at their opening of Madeleine L’Engle’s beloved children story. It didn’t happen. At first, I thought maybe this story was too silly for the mainstage and would be bettered served in their Kid Series. Between the myriad of odd characters, space travel and scientific hoopla, I decided it was too complicated for a younger crowd. Yet, it IS an award-winning story for children. According to Wikipedia, the book won a Newbery Medal, Sequoyah Book Award, and Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, and was runner-up for the Hans Christian Andersen Award. I have never read it. Perhaps, fans of the book will be riveted by this fantasy adventure.
Seeing a fair amount of theatre, I take pride in being thrown into a story and trying to figure it out. Between Adapter James Sie and Director Elise Kauzlaric, I was hard pressed to puzzle this one together. The play starts with a sleepless Jamie Cahill (Meg Murry) in the attic. The initial tone feels almost sinister because she is banished to the attic. When she decides to go get a cup of hot chocolate, she is met in the kitchen by Trent Davis (Charles Wallace Murry). It took me awhile to get that they are siblings and much longer to understand Charles can read minds. Even when Vahishta Vafadari (Mother and Ensemble) joins her children for late night cocoa, the conversation feels more forced than natural for family. Then, the quirky Maddie Pell (Mrs. Whatsit and Ensemble) arrives to take off her boots and I’m really wondering, ‘whatsit?’ I’m struggling to make sense of all of it. Then, Pell joins Javier Ferreira (Mrs. Who and Ensemble) and Carmen Molina (Mrs. Which and Ensemble) in this cackling cauldron crew. ‘Who?’ Which?’ WHAT?? It’s not so much mysterious as confusing.
Sie hasn’t introduced the characters enough for novices to the L’Engle story to understand and grasp what is transpiring. His shortcuts don’t explain this wacky world. Kauzlaric’s direction also has difficulty tethering us to the action. In one scene, a character is rescued from a prison cell. The ‘walls’ are invisible to the characters. The actors awkwardly pat the air to establish the parameters. It’s clunky. Once they figure out how to break in, the rescue is lackluster. The emotion imagined for this type of reunion isn’t there. A loving emotional response is only exhibited by Aunt Beast. Although Aunt is meant to be a comforting creature, its actions are straight-up creepy with what might be described as fondling a teenager.
Full disclosure: I usually tear up and/or cry at most Lifeline shows. I never connected to A WRINKLE IN TIME. Although I can’t recommend it, I’m hoping it finds an audience in L’Engle fans.
Running Time: Two hours include an intermission
At Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood Ave.
Based on the novel by Madeleine L’Engle
Adapted by James Sie
Directed by Elise Kauzlaric
Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30pm
Saturdays at 4pm and 8pm
Sundays at 4pm
Thru April 9, 2017
Tickets may be purchased at the Lifeline Theatre Box Office, 773.761.4477, or by visiting www.lifelinetheatre.com.
Photos by Jackie Jasperson.
For more information and reviews on Chicago theatre, visit Theater in Chicago.