REVIEW: Tying Up Loose Ends (Breathe Life Productions)

Face to face with ‘Loose Ends’


Breathe Life Productions present
Tying Up Loose Ends

Written and Performed by Catherine and Ann Gallogly
Directed By
Jamie O’Reilly
Music by
Ann Gallogly & Dan Stetzel

at Theatre Building Chicago
through July 28th  |  tickets:  $18-$25   |  more info

reviewed by K.D. Hopkins

I must preface this review by saying that I work with elderly people in my other existence. I had some trepidation about seeing a musical on the subject matter of people transitioning and dying. The decision of going into hospice care is quite often difficult; one that requires facing your own mortality. Catherine Gallogly has written a heart-rending set of stories from her own experiences as a hospice nurse. Tying Up Loose Ends takes the audience through twelve stories of individuals facing the end of life and how she helped them.

Lovely songs done in cabaret style by Ann Gallogly and pianist Dan Stetzel accompany the stories. Catherine and Ann are mother and daughter respectively and the mutual admiration and respect is felt when watching them perform. Actually, this is not so much a performance as it is a storytelling session done with great flair and purity. Catherine Gallogly never treads on maudlin territory or into making the story about her. She gives due justice to the lives of the people and how she shared in helping them to the next phase. Ms. Gallogly is not an actress and makes no pretense of great drama or false emoting. She is a comforting and refreshing presence intimately sharing with the audience.

The stories are sometimes romantic and always mindful that sometimes there is humor to be found in death because it is a part of life. The story of the man dying from liver cancer had an unexpected romantic edge to it that bordered on the erotic. Gallogly describes him coming home from the hospital for one last meal of pot roast and potatoes. He is an old man who has been married for a long time. The details of how his wife runs to him and how he kisses her and caresses her have a voyeuristic feel and indeed, Gallogly confesses, “I shouldn’t be here”. It was a privilege for her to witness such a love and to make that intimate moment possible.

I found much humor in the story of Gallogly traveling to a slum neighborhood to attend to a dying African American woman. The patient self medicates with liquor and asks her nurse to give her eulogy. Ms. Gallogly was taken aback but forged ahead, honored to have been asked and in awe of the resplendence of Black funerals. She tells of her plain, black “Irish funeral attire” and all of the church ladies in their colorful outfits and hats.

My favorite song of the evening- “Goin’ Home” accompanied this segment. Ann Gallogly belted out the tune wearing a serious hat and gospel flair from deep in her soul.

I recommend Tying Up Loose Ends for anyone who is contemplating their lives no matter the situation. These tales of hospice give strength and encouragement to live big and love bigger. They will make you laugh and possibly break your heart open. To be a witness of someone’s last moments of life is an intimate and profound thing. Catherine Gallogly shares a joyous and wonderful celebration of life.

It should be noted that I bristled a bit at the woman who came out before the show to question people about what they expected the show to be like. Perhaps some people came to settle their own issues but it felt like an unnecessary intrusion. The lady seemed a bit put off when I said I expected a musical about hospice and shared no other details. There is no need to prescreen or prep people for what they are about to see. It was as welcome as the $3.00 can of soda.

Rating: ★★★

Performances are on Wednesdays only through July 28th with no shows on June 2nd or June 9th. Tying Up Loose Ends is a Breathe Life Production at the Theatre Building Chicago, 1225 W. Belmont. Check it out.

Stages 2009 – Calling all Musical Theatre devotees!!!




Presented by Theatre Building Chicago
AUGUST 21-23, 2009

Especially for musical theatre junkies (and their friends) – Theatre Building Chicago presents STAGES 2009, a festival of 5 new musicals in progress, a new topical revue and 2 panel discussions Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, August 21-23, 2009.

The three-day musical extravaganza performs each new work twice in concert readings and studio presentations. Now in its 16th season, STAGES focuses on the development of new works of musical theatre.  The new works, in staged-reading format, include:


  A new topical review of songs written specifically for STAGES. Works include numbers by Martin Charnin, George Stiles & Anthony Drew, Wally Harper and Sherman Yellen, Owen Kalt and Elizabeth Doyle and many other writers. Friday 7:30pm, Sunday 4pm (a pre-show reception at 6:30pm will be held before Friday’s performance)


  Murder is hard. Adolescence is harder. Casey Ames, a teenager
transplanted from New York City to a small town in Pennsylvania, is
obsessed with becoming a detective. This musical explores the full
spectrum of teenage angst.  (Saturday 1pm, Sunday 4pm)


  This American drama reveals the true history of intrepid settlers
who head west to fulfill their dreams but encounter a nightmare
of challenges that test their faith, spirit and their very souls.


  When an aging grandfather is confronted by Death in the form of Mr. Brink, he thwarts Mr. Brink’s plans by trapping him up a tree. With Mr. Brink unable to do his duty, no one can die. Mr. Brink works through the grandfather’s family and friends to try and convince the old man to free him and to restore the natural order.


  A troubled Vietnam vet living with his sister is visited by an army buddy who dredges up the memories of a mutual comrade lost in a battle they both survived. This moving drama explores the themes of guilt, forgiveness, love and how we survive our own personal histories. (Saturday 1pm, Sunday 4pm)


  Song poems are the vanity publishing side of the music  recording industry. The musical features dozens of actual song poems (such as Aliens Stole My Dog) and tells the stories of a song poem composer and the everyday people who submit
their poetry for “consideration”. (Saturday 4pm, Sunday 7pm)

Panel discussions (available to all ticket-holders)

Writing Theatre for Young Audiences – Saturday August 22nd 10:00 AM
Learn what elements make imaginative and engaging theatre for children. What are the special considerations and specific responsibilities in writing material for young audiences? Writers and producers who specialize in this audience share their experiences, trade secrets and vision for the craft.

Understanding Intellectual Property Rights – Sunday August 23 – 10:00 AM
Experts in the field will speak on the intricacies and legal  issues regarding adaptations, obtaining rights, paying for  the underlying rights and what is a reasonable fee. What is public domain?  Privacy laws regarding what you can and cannot use regarding real people and events in new works.

STAGES 2009 tickets are now on sale at the box office: 773-327-5252
and Ticketmaster 1-800-982-2787 (www.ticketmaster. com)

For more info, including personnel and performer’s names, ticket pricing, performance location, transportation, and interview possibilities for the press, click on “Read more”

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