Saturday, October 10, 2009

Abe Lincoln in Illinois - INTIMAN

Abe Lincoln in Illinois


Tickets and Information

October 2 – November 15, 2009

When American citizens think of common men, Abraham Lincoln is probably the furthest thing from anyone’s mind. As the sixteenth president of our country, the man who ended slavery and a man who was gunned down by a disgruntled actor who, to this day, no one is quite sure of all of his motives, Lincoln is, by all accounts, a true American Hero. However, what of the man behind the beard? What struggles did he have as a young man and how on earth did he end up in the White House? Robert E. Sherwood answers the call in this fantastically engaging epic play.

Erik Lochtefeld and R. Hamilton Wright. Photo by Chris Bennion 2009.

No smoke and mirrors here: Abe Lincoln in Illinois is a long play. With three acts, two intermissions and clocking in as (with intermissions included) a three hour adventure, it’s a long play. However, never once does it drag and never once does it bore. Sherwood’s script is highly entertaining and, though we all know how the story will eventually end, the bumps along the way keep the audience engaged every minute of the show.

Sheila Daniels takes this seventy-year old, Pulitzer Prize winning play and runs with it. Her direction and staging with her nineteen-member cast is very effective and the vaguely-metatheatrical script lends itself well to Daniels’ somewhat presentational staging tactics. Along with Daniels is a creative team to make any theatre veteran swoon. From the highly evocative set design (Mikiko Suzuki MacAdams) to the moving original compositions (Gretta Harley, Music Direction by John Ackermann) to the gentle suggestions from the lighting design (L.B. Morse), the creative team is, in and of itself, an all star cast.

Similarly, the knock-out cast of performers is one to get any Seattle theatre-goer giddy with recognition. R. Hamilton Wright as Stephan A. Douglas, Mary Jane Gibson as Mary Todd Lincoln (the Todd with two D’s), and other outstanding performances from Hans Altwies, Kate Wisniewski and many more create a every exciting world. Erik Lochtefeld, not unfamiliar to Seattle’s theatre scene (Seattle Rep’s Metamorphoses and The Secret in the Wings) presents Abe Lincoln as no one knows him: simply a man. Born at the bottom of the barrel and working his way up, mostly against his will, from private lessons with a generous school teacher in the wee hours of the night to the front steps of the White House, Lochtefeld’s Lincoln is the kind of guy with whom no one is unfamiliar. He has no trouble entertaining a crowd but is deeply troubled by challenges with women. He is a great pacifist but will lay a man out if the need arises. He’s the kind of guy you want to have a beer with but if he gets going, you may need to find a new table. He’s fully human.

In an age when our African-American President – who is trying desperately to get our country back on track with what is important to us all, who is presented with an extremely generous Nobel Peace Prize and who is swimming completely against the wake left by his predecessor – is in office during Lincoln’s Bicentennial year, Sherwood’s play could not come at a better time.

Review by Andrew J. Perez

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