‘The Safe House’ at City Lit is a safe bet

 

 marssie Mencotti, L. and Kat Evans in City Lit's The Safe House. (Photo by Steve Graue)
marssie Mencotti, L. and Kat Evans in City Lit’s The Safe House. (Photo by Steve Graue)

3.5 Stars

This world premiere slice of life drama is sure to strike close to home.

For many, the place they have lived and raised a family is more than an assembly of bricks and wood, it is a repository of memories and the physical manifestation of a life’s work. When it comes time to consider leaving it behind there are more considerations than a change of address.

“The Safe House,” commissioned by City Lit and based on a true story by Chicago playwright Kristine Thatcher, is expertly supervised by Producer/Artistic Director Terry McCabe.

You get a feeling you know where the cookie jar is in designer Ray Toler’s cozy retro kitchen/dining room stage setting It brings us right into the domain of “Grandma” Hannah (marssie Mencotti) who must confront the realities of her changing condition and abilities.

I really appreciate the casting of a seasoned player for this role who is able to bring an underlying understanding and sensibility derived from experience to her character. But rest assured that Mencotti (and yes, she uses lowercase m for marssie) will not be put out to pasture anytime soon.

She was “spot-on” as the aging German immigrant matriarch living the end of her American dream after helping her husband build a business and grow a family in mid-twentieth century Lansing, Michigan.

Hannah’s thirty-something granddaughter, Bridget (Kat Evans), an aspiring actress visiting from New York, is aware that her grandmother is not quite as sharp as she had always been. But she is quick to defend her from her uncle, Mathius (Paul Chakrin), who feels his mom just isn’t up to the task of taking care of herself.

Evans is the personification of the modern “every-girl” struggling with her relationship, career and family.

I am not sure where the bulk of the credit lies in this perfectly believable production. Thatcher’s dialog seems as though she must have tape recorded these conversations and used the content. The language is seamless and natural. But so too is the delivery between Mencotti and Evans.

The ebb and flow of the story line expertly creates just enough tension when needed then provides a much needed chuckle or amusing interlude. This is not doom and gloom it is just real life with a variety of ups, downs, sentimentality and humor.

Having personally been similarly in Mathius’ shoes, I was more than sympathetic, hanging on every emotion of Chakrin, the concerned adult son, as he moved between love, anger, frustration and resolve.

This is one of those plays that some theater goers may be quick to dismiss as just a little too reminiscent of one’s own life when you are looking for a little escapist entertainment.  But avoid this at your own risk because doing so means you might miss one of the most authentic and touching local performances of the year.

DETAILS: “The Safe House” at City Lit, 1020 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., Chicago through Dec. 16, 2018.  Running time is 80 minutes including one intermission. For tickets and other information call (773) 293-3682  or visit City Lit

Reno Lovison

 

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

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