Wisdom Bridge Theatre Chicago Company, at Ivanhoe Theater.
In Lanford Wilson’s new play, Geri, a 17-year-old Eurasian girl, leaves her wealthy adoptive parents and her budding career as a concert pianist to search for her father in the redwood forests of northern California. She thinks she finds him in Lyman Fellers. A Vietnam veteran, Lyman haunts a grove formerly owned by Geneva Simonson, Geri’s protective foster aunt, who wants the teen to give up her doomed quest for a father and concentrate on a more attainable goal–success as a musician.
Well contrasted and warmly depicted, Wilson’s characters occupy socioeconomic extremes, and at its strongest the play reminds us how stratified our nominally classless society actually is. Unfortunately, the discursive, often flatly penned script never creates the urgency the characters deserve; they seem more metaphorical than real, more like pawns than players. All their exposition yields is a melodramatic Miss Saigon-like payoff.
Terry McCabe’s earnest staging of this Chicago premiere adds little magic to Wilson’s half-baked parable. Kristine Thatcher plays the Chekhovian aunt with a throbbing intensity her situation doesn’t warrant. Suzy Aiko Nakamura’s Geri is dour and muted–whether this stems from restraint or enervation is unclear. Only Dev Kennedy’s redwoods recluse suggests the appropriate mystery.