City Lit Theater and Chicago Theatre Company.

Her mother’s dying wish was for her to find herself “a good thing.” So with the oracular advice of the eerie Swamp Woman to guide her, the ghosts of her father and mother to comfort her, and Yoruba myths to lend scope to her experiences, Faith Cross sets out. She journeys from rural Georgia to Chicago, there to encounter a succession of exploiters, benefactors, betrayers, and mentors, all themselves searching for–you guessed it!–that good thing.

Faith and the Good Thing, Charles Johnson’s contemporary take on the quest for happiness, treads ground already well explored by magic realism. But Keli Garrett’s adaptation of the 1974 novel captures its blend of squalor, sorcery, social satire, and earthy humor (if also a bit too much of Johnson’s didactic philosophizing–which was still being jettisoned when the play opened). And this muscular co-production keeps the action kinetic and the spectacle visually engaging.

The eight-member cast zip through their 34 roles with protean agility (and some assistance from Michael Alan Stein’s costumes, Lynda White’s masks, and Patrick Kerwin’s clever sets). Lydia Gartin makes a charmingly ingenuous Faith, and Michael A. Shepperd (surely the busiest actor in town) a hilarious Buppie. But look for Lisa Biggs’s seven-cyclone Swamp Woman to take some trophies come awards time.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Suzanne N. Plunkett.