The Gift Theatre marks its return to live performance after a two-year absence with the Chicago premiere of Naomi Iizuka’s bittersweet ode to memory and place. Directed by Lavina Jadhwhani, it is a series of sometimes wistful, sometimes nostalgic, but always affecting monologues told by a succession of related characters in a Kentucky town, over a period centered around a summer in 1972, but stretching back to the 19th century and forward perhaps to near-present day. An ophthalmologist/amateur photographer, a self-styled Thomas Edison expert, several stockyard workers, as well as a few wives and children take turns talking about what came before them, what they value, and what they miss.
At the Vanishing Point
Through 5/22: Thu-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 3 PM, Filament Theatre, 4041 N. Milwaukee, 773-283-7071, thegifttheatre.org, $40-$50.
The stage set by Lindsay Mummert is a kind of liminal attic of crates filled with neglected treasures and crap in which a slideshow springs to life from time to time to animate ghosts and fragments of past; behind its screen, when the projector light fades, loved ones appear in silhouette or half-light to illuminate the recollections of whichever teller is at center stage. (Parker Molacek designed the projections.) The overall effect is of reverie, but as several characters make sure to point out, there’s an acknowledgment and insistence that whatever golden yesteryear they’re reminiscing about was fraught with troubles and complications that they’re not anxious to resurrect or return to. Iizuka has clearly spent considerable time wrestling with the dangers of romanticizing the past. But just because you know the good old days weren’t all good, it doesn’t mean there aren’t moments or people from back then that we don’t miss. This is a play that’ll bring a tear to your eye and will not make you feel bad for doing so.