REVIEW: The Hiding Place (Provision Theater)

Powerful story vividly brought to life on the stage

 THP- cast.jpg

 
Provision Theater presents
 
The Hiding Place
 
Adapted and directed by Tim Gregory
Based on the autobiography of
Corrie ten Boom
at
Provision Theater, 1001 W. Roosevelt (map)
thru May 23rd  |  tickets: $15-$28  |  more info

reviewed by Ian Epstein

The Hiding Place is the story of a brick wall in the ten Boom (sounds close to Tannenbaum) residence in Nazi-occupied Holland during World War II.  The ten Booms are an upstanding, morally righteous Dutch Christian family from Haarlem. There’s Casper ten Boom (Dennis Kelly), the greying patriarch, who, with his tailored suit and clocksmith’s shop, might as well be a stand-in for father time flanked by his THP-Cynthia Judge, Lia Mortensen.jpg two daughters, Betsie ten Boom (Cynthia Judge) and Corrie ten Boom (Lia Mortensen). Betsie has a prodigious commitment to her faith that makes her character appear to toe the line between naivete and sainthood while her sister Corrie makes up for her sister’s sincerity with cynicism, a kind of cynicism crystallized by loss and hindsight since it’s Corrie’s 1971 book that gives the show its title and its content.

The play begins with Corrie ten Boom at a speaking engagement – discussing faith, forgiveness, and the loss of her sister, and what forces moved her to set up the rehabilitative organization to which she is both steward and spokesperson.

All of a sudden and out of the crowd walks a frenetic, apologetic stranger who reveals himself to Corrie and offers money. He explains who he is and where the money is from and at the mere mention of his name, the elderly Corrie’s knees buckle and she collapses in a faint onto a chair, asking after a glass of water.

In what follows, we leave the elderly Corrie ten Boom scene behind and travel back to where things began, starting in the early days of Nazi-occupied Holland when the Dutch underground is hiding deeper and deeper and becoming ever more necessary and desperate.  As the story unfolds, we are told all we need to of the ten Boom family. We watch them celebrate holidays, mourn the loss of a son to prison – all due to a flagrant and patriotic (in all the wrong ways) act of pride that forced a Nazi to smash his piano-playing fingers before hauling him off to prison. We watch the underground melt from a world of friends to a world of ever-more-anonymous and furtive collection of men all and only known as "Mr. Smith." We watch the righteous ten Boom family take in, house, and feed one Dutch Jew after another, each offering the story of flight into hiding as another stroke in the composite portrait of a community facing Nazi destruction. We watch the ten Boom collaborate with an industrious group of construction-minded "Mr. Smiths" to build an impervious, brick-enclosed hiding place. And then we watch as the Gestapo arrives and the ten Booms are betrayed and Betsie and Corrie are carted off to a prison, and a concentration camp and finally after THP- Lia Mortensen.jpg nearly three hours watching faith, hope, and an enduring belief in the goodness of humans clash with unspeakable cruelty, Corrie – and by extension the whole audience (since by this time Corrie is the only continuous presence – the narrator whose trail we follow) – is confronted with an question about the limits of forgiveness.

The Hiding Place is an undeniably powerful story. And in the hands of Provision Theater‘s Artistic Director Tim Gregory, the adaptation boldly and faithfully animates the story. But in a few places (the muddy mix of accents, for example) a gesture intended to reinforce the authenticity of the story and stay as close as possible to the narrative itself gets in the way of telling it and telling it well on stage. Translation from the page onto the stage doesn’t necessarily need to bear in the character’s speech the artifact of their origin. The accents wind up lending the show an inconsistent feel (as any unfamiliar accent might over the course of three hours and so many characters) that detracts from the shows other successes.

Isaac B. Turner‘s costumes and Inseung Park‘s set, for example, offer color and character without any of the trappings of an obscure, unfamiliar accent that isn’t always well-delivered. Park’s set is a post-and-beam skeleton of a house that calls to mind Todd Rosenthal‘s Tony-winning design for August: Osage County. And then, during intermission, the drama-in-a-big-transparent-house element, so familiar to American theater-goers, evaporates into the shapes of an abstracted, oppressive prison-or-concentration-camp. The choice to spend so much time in the grey, faith-testing agony of a concentration camp is a lot to bear and this production, though well wrought, informative, and necessary, is rewarding for its audience without always being kind.

 
 
Rating: ★★½
 
 

THP-Lia Mortensen, Cynthia Judge, Franette Liebow.jpg

Tim Gregory -  Director, and founding Artistic Director

Tim Gregory is the founder of Provision Theater Company. Some of his directing credits include: Provision Theater’s Jeff-nominated A Christmas Carol and the critically acclaimed productions of Beast on the Moon and The Spitfire Grill; The Comedy of Errors at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre; A Christmas Carol at the Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C.; Alice in Wonderland and Treasure Island at Marriott Theatre; The Twiligh of Golds, The Diary of Anne Frank and Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry at the Apple Tree Theatre; Welcome Yule at Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Plaza Suite at the Lyric Theatre; Godspell at the Sorg Opera House; and ‘Dentity Crisis at the Studio Theatre. Tim’s acting credits include: Matthew/Storyteller in Provision’s critically acclaimed Cotton Patch Gospel, as well as numerous roles at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Steppenwolf Theatre, Marriott Theatre, Apple Tree Theatre, Drury Lane Oakbrook Theatre, Next Theatre, and regionally at The Alliance Theatre in Atlanta and The Ford’s Theatre in D.C. His television credits include Cupid on ABC, De Classified on WGN, and Tim can now be seen as the Host on HGTV’s New Spaces.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: