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Theater Review: ‘Down the Moonlit Path’ a Sensational, Interpersonal Stage Experience

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Average: 4.3 (3 votes)

CHICAGO – The power of creativity, and the risk of live theater, is all on display through Nothing Without a Company’s latest amazing journey, “Down the Moonlit Path.” The interactive stage experience refreshes the soul and realizes the joy of life.

HollywoodChicago.com Comedy/Tragedy Rating: 5.0/5.0
Play Rating: 5.0/5.0

Combining nine fairy tales and legends, “Down the Moonlit Path” takes the audience through a woodland path that weaves the tales together, and spotlights both their cultural differences and astounding similarities. The audience members are free to roam (at times, depending on their own sense of adventure) about the setting, and the actors, puppeteers and production staff magically weave the elements together to manufacture a sort of blessing onto perspective and soul.

Down the Moonlit Path
Into the Woods: The Performers Express in ‘Down the Moonlit Path’
Photo credit: Patrick McDonald for HollywoodChicago.com

Audience members are asked to choose between two journeys, and there are two “voices” who guide their destinations. There are instructions in the beginning, but once the audience goes “into the woods,” the conjuring of scene and atmosphere becomes a personal happening for each participant. The voices guide their groups from scene to scene, but slyly they also encourage audience members to break their own walls and be free. There is so much savory and sharp storytelling – quiet, loud, comic, dramatic and mystical. It feels like a dream, an escape and the other side of the mirror.

The cast is magnificent – they are listed after the review – and they communicate their stories by containing themselves in multiple roles. Grethel in the “Hansel &” story can morph into the princess-who-cannot-laugh with a brilliant ease, and play both roles with the comprehension of cultural truth. But basically all the actors are doing this, pursuing this truth through the legends of different societies, as the audience reaps the treasure of these stories. The authenticity of the cast are the threads that are woven into the adventure, and their passion for bringing the stories to life becomes a whole and precious cloth – which is part of the plot in the Japanese story, “The Crane Wife.”

The production is set in Chicago’s historic Preston Bradley Center, a former church and now a community center in the Uptown neighborhood. The fourth floor Mason Hall is transformed into the adventure, and it is so appropriate to how everything is brought together, with its atmosphere of ramshackle glory (it opened in the 1920s, and has the patina of age and use). The weaving of lighting, the simple/stark rendering of the woods and the use of stagecraft – including puppeteering, magic and pantomime to represent the woodland creatures – is part of the 120 minute vacation, and the gift that Nothing Without a Company awards their fellow journeyers.

Down the Moonlit Path
The Storks and the Voice in ‘Down the Moonlit Path
Photo credit: Patrick McDonald for HollywoodChicago.com

At some point – as the concept starts to click in – the adventure becomes exciting, making all the senses glow with energy and wonder. Both the performers and the audience are illuminated from each other, which is vital to a happening that combines culture, humanity and commonality into an essential dance. The way it was adapted – through the genius of scenario writer Tate A. Geborkoff, director Rachel Staelens and their army of production miracle workers – is what makes the trip so worthwhile.

Challenging the conventions of entertainment is how theater…or any form of art… evolves. The group called Nothing Without a Company is part of that evolution revolution, and if you’re lucky, you can obtain a ticket to ride.

Nothing Without a Company presents “Down the Moonlit Path” at The Preston Bradley Center, 941 W. Lawrence Avenue in Chicago, from April 17th through May 16th, 2015 – Thursday (7:30pm), Friday (9:30pm) and Saturday (1pm & 7:30pm). Adapted for the stage by Tate A. Geborkoff, directed by Rachel Staelens. Featuring Emily Duke, Mari DeOleo, Connor Baly, Kevin Bensley, Nora Lise Ulrey, Tobi Mattingly, Reginald Vaughn, Romeo Green, Franco Steeves, Josh Mattingly, Davon Roberts, Valerie Lyvers, Heather L. Jencks, Wanda Jin, Taylor Dariarow and Akua Sarhene. Click here to purchase tickets and for more information.

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Writer, Editorial Coordinator

© 2015 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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