Post image for Theater Review: SUNDOWN, YELLOW MOON (Raven Theatre in Chicago)

Theater Review: SUNDOWN, YELLOW MOON (Raven Theatre in Chicago)

by Lawrence Bommer on October 11, 2019

in Theater-Chicago


As she showed in Five Mile Lake, Rachel Bonds works with a small brush. She lays low before her subject in order to convey tender, unassuming connections between the characters. The result: inconclusive plots that suggest so much more life around these souls — ones that we can only assume but nonetheless believe.

A mostly moving Chicago premiere at Raven Theatre Company, Sundown, Yellow Moon is an equally slow-paced, quietly observed family drama set in a small southern town and held together by unobtrusive ballads by The Bengsons. Not much happens here. But what little does manages to matter. A series of abortive encounters stands in for a lot more life.

Artistic director Cody Estle, aided by music director Andra Velis Simon, turns this 95-minute discovery into a series of half-baked revelations that, combined, turn out to be sufficient labor of love for all seven actors.

Divorced dad Tom (Will Casey as a work in progress) is a teacher who recently had an unpleasant encounter with his headmistress and has been suspended from work. His twin daughters Ray and Joey (Liz Chidester and Diana Coates) have moved out and sought their own ways, the latter encountering a poet named Ted (Josh Odor) who’s jealous of his more successful wife. Joey, who likes to run and who may or may not be going to Berlin to study on a Fulbright, encourages him to “go deeper into the woods,” that is, take risks worth running.

Now the sisters have returned to deal with dad, though no easy answers arise other than possessing themselves in patience.

We also meet on this humid summer day counselor Carver (Jordan Dell Harris), who’s eager to help Tom in more ways than his job requires, and Bobby and Jean (Rob Frankel and Jeanne T. Arrigo), a sympathetic couple who echo the family’s own fears.

What tempers them all are the songs they bring out for healing purposes and reassurance. Speaking deeper than words, these musical bounds renew the loved ones when life offers fewer certainties.

Typical of this play are such deliberately open-ended indications as the setting — “somewhere very green and very humid, like Tennessee.” That’s Bonds for you, preferring not to strictly define either the backdrop or the forepersons.

It’s enough for the songs to spell out what’s unspoken and the performances to persuade us what to guess about the rest.

photos by Michael Brosilow

Sundown, Yellow Moon
Raven Theatre East Stage, 6157 N. Clark St. (at Granville)
Thurs-Sat at 7:30; Sun at 3
ends on November 17, 2019
for tickets, call 773.338.2177 or visit Raven Theatre

for more shows, visit Theatre in Chicago

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