Maybe despair and loss can be emotionally handled when countered or balances with glimmers of hope.
In “Lady in Denmark,” a one-person show currently playing at Goodman Theatre, Helene recounts her life in Denmark including rape when she was 14 and her current situation of desperate loneliness upon the recent death of husband Lars.
She replays their favorite Billy Holiday songs for the memories but try as she does, it doesn’t seem to work for her and is not enough to leave audiences feeling good about loss.
Indeed, theater goers who are experiencing or have gone through the kind of cancer battle that Helene just went through with her beloved Lars, might want to skip the show or see it at a much later time.
Part of the problem is that Linda Gehringer who received a Jeff nominee for “The Crowd You’re In With,” portrays Helene so well and with such intensity and depth of understanding it is easy to believe the person on stage is recounting her own experiences.
Written by Pulitzer Prize finalist Dael Orlandersmith, the playwright and actress of the highly acclaimed “Until the Flood,” her current play appears on the surface to be a tribute to Holiday, the “Lady” who visited Denmark and was happier in Europe than in America where she was subject to racial hatred and discriminatory laws.
It does partially retell Holiday’s interaction with a family in Denmark, the inspiration for “Lady in Denmark.” But with Gehringer’s heartfelt portrayal under Chay Yew’s direction, what the play does in its brief 90 minutes is to remind people that “rape lasts a lifetime” and that trying to get through loss “doesn’t get better.”
The action takes place in a home in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood, an elaborate, excellent set designed by Andrew Boyce, furnished in Danish Modern. Gehringer competently interjects Danish phrases and mentions favorite foods that add to the show’s ethnic angle.
Even told with a Danish flavor that has Billy Holiday songs in the background and referred to in the title, “Lady in Denmark” is about loss., an emotion that is universal.
DETAILS: “Lady in Denmark” is in the Owen theatre and Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago through Nov. 18, 2018. Running time: 90 min. no intermission. For tickets and other information call (312) 443-3800 and visit Goodman Theatre .
For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago