The first review for Streeterville is in, grabbing a respectable 3 stars!
I even get a shout out!
Read on for link and full text:
Review by Keith Glab
For the past 11 years, Theatre-Hikes has pioneered a combination of… wait for it… theatre and hiking. Parks, arboretums, and other pockets of nature within Chicago’s urban climate serve as venues for this experience. Plays are broken up into a handful of scenes that take place at different locations around the venue, and audiences are guided by a hike leader from scene to scene.
Buckets and pads are provided for use during the scenes, but patrons are welcome to bring their own blankets or camping chairs. Some settings also feature picnic benches, logs, or other built-in seating options. A couple of the actors play music as the group hikes to the first scene. (Water and other provisions are not offered, which is a missed opportunity both as a means of generating revenue and as a courtesy to the patrons embarking on this two-and-a-half hour journey.)
I attended Streeterville, the third of Theatre-Hikes’ five shows this season, at beautifulNorth Park Village Nature Center. The story of George Wellington “Cap” Streeter (Sean Thomas) and his foundation of The District of Lake Michigan unfolds across four scenes. At North Park, a section of the trail riddled with dead logs became the ideal spot for the Reutan’s shipwreck. A pond was aptly utilized to convey a lakeside setting in the second scene. The final two settings were less scene-appropriate, but still picturesque.
Our hike leader (Bradley Baker) warns of strong language and that the hike is technically for ages eight and up, but this is an ideal way to expose children to theatre. The fresh air, inclusion of music, and dynamic settings help hold the attention of youngsters for over two hours of performance. In this case, the rather archetypal characters (a crooked politician, a prostitute seeking redemption, a wealthy couple acting selfishly) and plotlines (marriage, a play-within-a-play, courtroom scenes) are also better-suited for theatre neophytes than theatre geeks. The language isn’t as strong as the average primetime TV drama.
Even the acting, which is more grandiose than naturalistic due to the need to compete with traffic sounds, geese, and other distractions found in outdoor settings, lends itself well to children. (There was a comical moment when the line, “I never noticed how quiet it is by the lakefront” was uttered as an airplane roared overhead). Although the acting is big, it rarely bleeds into the realm of overdoing it. Thomas as Streeter and Steve Parks as the vagabond Klondike (who handles intermittent narration) carry the action with memorable, larger-than-life characters that nevertheless feature nice moments of subtlety. Amanda Lynn Meyer and David Fink also stand out in their supporting roles. Meyer gives Jane a complexity and ambivalence missing in many of the other characters while Fink deftly transforms from an eager news reporter to a comically inebriated Polish immigrant to a menacing hired gunman to a somber priest.
Some of the actors, when not onstage, provide simple sound effects for the scene behind the audience. There is a minimalist use of props, and Director Brian Rabinowitz keeps the blocking simple, a necessity when performing at multiple venues. The costumes really stand out amongst the production values, instantly transporting the audience into the late 19th-century.
This insight into the formation of the neighborhood we still know as Streeterville proves educational not only for the children in attendance, but for the adults as well. It’s an intriguing story that every Chicagoan should know but most do not, and it’s told in an interesting and very aesthetically pleasing manner by Theatre-Hikes.
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