MvVO Art Launches AD ART SHOW
Out of Town

Hard Times

Hard Times
Hard Times

photos by Liz Lauren

Returning to the stage for its 30th Anniversary Season, Lookingglass Theatre’s Hard Times is as relevant now as it was back when Charles Dickens first wrote his orignal tale. His industrial revolution indictment is layered against the light cast from a visiting traveling circus, with all its majestic pleasures and merriment found within its varied tents. This balance of light and dark, tone and shade, where those held in highest esteem are often more nefarious than those at the bottom most rung of the careers’ fateful ladder.  Originally adapted back in 2001, director, Ensemble Member Heidi Stillman in association with The Actors Gymnasium, remounts this show to dizzying heights. The impressive and imaginative circus choreography from Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi is certainly the show’s high-point, and reminiscent of my favorite Lookingglass show, Lookingglass Alice, although this play is certainly more grounded in reality than that imaginative tale. Hard Times’ pace is much more of a slow simmer, savoring all of the delicious details in its story as it cautiously unfolds.

Hard Times

photos by Liz Lauren

Chronicling life among the rich and the poor of Coketown, England, class and economic disparity are just as timely now as they were then. The carefully crafted ensemble piece offers narratives into the wide array of the characters lives, instead of focusing on just one or two primary character. While women in Dickens’ day were considered ancillary by society, they drive the subtleties of the narrative here. The cast includes Louisa (Cordelia Dewdney) the beautiful and intelligent daughter of hard-nosed educator (Raymond Fox) quickly married off to the much older Trump-ian, Industrial Baron (Troy West). Helping Louisa adjust to this unsatisfying  life, her friend Sissy (Audrey Anderson) a cast-off from the circus, whose own light is temporarily dimmed as she is pulled from the spotlight of the tightrope, where she clearly excels and relegated to the classroom, where she pointedly doesn’t. If Sissy offers Louisa hope, the other men in her life, brother Tom (JJ Phillips) and suitor, Harthouse (Nathan Hosner) regrettably don’t. Her brother’s a thief and her suitor a cad. The circus is an obvious metaphor here, representing the imaginative and romantic, versus the bleak utilitarianism of capitalism and unsatisfying roles under the thumb of a fierce and unapologetic patriarchy.

Hard Times

photos by Liz Lauren

The beauty of Hard Times is clearly crafted in the costumes of Mara Blumenfeld. Her colorful Actors Gymnasium circus garments, in their lustrous reds, pinks and yellow are the sunshine, romance and blush of love and life. Juxtaposed against the industrial revolutionary palette of dark grey, charcoal, black, plum and purple. Daniel Ostling’s set design mimics the same, with steel beam boxes and dark wooden desks the ornaments of the oppressors, and colorful scarves and colorful ropes as backdrop accents for the imaginative. Brian Sidney Bembridge’s dramatic lighting also added edge when required, then softness and subtlety for the fleeting romantic nuances as well.

Hard Times

photos by Liz Lauren

In an age where calculated scientific data is being questioned as “alternative facts”, we may be characters in our own world of Hard Times. Dickens himself would scoff at the recently passed, unprecedented tax cuts for the “haves” at the expense of the “have not’s”. While this play was written utilizing the Industrial Revolution as a backdrop, it is stunning how relevant this tale rings today. Don’t let the title fool you, this Hard Times is beautifully pointed with moments of poetic virtue and somber pathos. If you are looking for an alternative to holiday fare, The Lookingglass Theatre Company productions are always top notch.

Hard Times

photos by Liz Lauren

Lookingglass Theatre’s Hard Times is now playing through January 14, 2018

 

Out of Town

Stephen S. Best is currently a freelance writer for the Times Square Chronicles, covering the performing arts scene in the greater Chicagoland area. He has been a theater aficionado for years, attending his first live production, Annie, at the tender age of six. After graduating from Purdue University, Stephen honed his skills attending live theater, concerts and art installations in New York and Chicago. Stephen's keen eye and thorough appreciation for both theater patrons' time and entertainment dollar makes him a valuable asset and his recommendations key. Stephen currently lives in downtown Chicago.

More in Out of Town

Matilda  – Roald Dahl’s Tale of Victory Over Ignorance

Claudia PerryNovember 16, 2018
Tommy Thurston,Neala Barron

Talent Rains Down on 110 in the Shade at Boho Ensemble

Jeffery Lyle SegalNovember 15, 2018
Neala Barron

Interview with Chicago actress Neala Barron

Jeffery Lyle SegalNovember 15, 2018
Billy Joel

The Long Island Music Hall of Fame Seventh Annual Gala

Magda KatzNovember 9, 2018
Jenn Gambatese, Matthew Scott, Linda Purl, Darius de Haas

Feeling Wicked: The Magical Side of the American Songbook

Genevieve Rafter KeddyNovember 4, 2018
Andrea McArdle, Charles Strouse

Charles Strouse to Celebrate His 90th birthday With Andrea McArdle at APAC

Suzanna BowlingNovember 1, 2018
Laura Osnes, Santino Fontana

Santino Fontana and Laura Osnes Go From Cinderella to Dear Jack, Dear Louise

Suzanna BowlingNovember 1, 2018
KRISTIN CHENOWETH

LA News: Kristin Chenoweth and Rachel Bloom

Suzanna BowlingOctober 29, 2018

D.C. Plays Host to the Devilishly Adorable Little Shop of Horror

RossOctober 27, 2018