Review: From Generation to Generation (Genesis Theatricals)

     
     

Genesis generates amateurish night of theatre

     
     

From Generation to Generation - Genesis Theatricals poster

  
Genesis Theatricals presents
  
From Generation to Generation
   
Book by Karen Sokolof Javitch and Elaine Jabenis
Music and Lyrics by Karen Sokolof Jatitch
Directed by David Zak
at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont (map)
through May 1  |  tickets: $30  |  more info

Reviewed by Barry Eitel

The basic premise behind From Generation to Generation, the newest musical offering from Genesis Theatrical Productions, is solid. An old, ailing woman battles time to record everything she wants to tell a granddaughter she may never meet. In execution, the show, penned by Karen Sokolof Javitch and Elaine Jabenis and directed by David Zak (artistic director for the old Bailiwick), is hobbled by a lame script and a tendency to dumb down anything challenging. Leaving Stage 773, I was left wondering how this show got productions on both coasts already (and, apparently, awards). This is not a world premier, just a Chicago premier. Not only are there new musicals out there that dig deeper, there are sappy, easy shows that do sentimentality better.

It should be mentioned first that the cast puts a lot of heart out on the stage—I would be amiss to call them lethargic or disinterested. But they are fighting to keep adrift a boat that sunk before it left the harbor.

Javitch and Jabenis’ tale (Javitch also composed) revels in Jewish tradition and culture, throwing out Yiddish aphorisms and staging several ceremonies. The protagonist Rose (the lovable Susan Veronika Adler) even begins the show with a conversation with the Lord, a la Fiddler. But Joseph Stein’s classic contains far more dramatic heft and emotional vigor. From Generation to Generation forgets its premise halfway through, instead choosing to dally in a loose collection of memories until randomly slamming the lid close on the story. Along the way, the writers try to jerk some tears or get those gears of nostalgia churning. There’s a song where the old ladies remember how great things were in “simpler times”—hula hoops, Audrey Hepburn, etc. Quite a few slap-your-forehead obvious sections abound, along with several unintentionally funny moments. Other choices come out of nowhere, like a doo-wop tribute to former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Mier?

Rose’s story could be very touching—she struggles with terminal cancer and faces the harrowing fact that she may not live merely nine months more to see the birth of her granddaughter. There are more possible layers to Rose; she’s a widow and a faithful Jew, even in her bleak circumstances. Here, however, she gets inexplicably better and the heartfelt messages become more of a “remember that one time…” game between Rose and her friends, then her health inexplicably deteriorates again. It’s as if the creators forgot she was sick and then remembered her fatal illness when there were two scenes left to go. The two hour running time could probably be cut in half and we’d still get the general plot.

Zak’s cast does about as well as a show like this can let them. Many of them still pander to the audience (like Michelle McKenzie-Voigt as Rose’s zany best friend, Norma), set on showing us how much fun they are having. Others are woefully miscast into roles twenty years older than their range, such as Kris Hyland, struggling as the unconvincing former hippie Eliot, and Bobby Arnold as an embittered, anti-Semitic coach. The most satisfying performance in the show is Ashley Stein as Marsha, Rose’s daughter. Adler can carry the show, but she rushes moments and often fails to make true connections with the other actors.

This show would be fine if it came to your local synagogue and starred your neighbors. That’s where it belongs, in communities that need all the theatre they can get. Unfortunately, Chicago is not one of those towns. There’s a high bar, and at $30 a ticket, there are some high expectations. Genesis simply does not deliver.

   
  
Rating: ★½
  
   

From Generation to Generation continues at Stage 773 through May 1st, with performances Sundays Thursdya through Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 3pm. Tickets are $30, and can be purchased online or by calling 773-327-5252. 

  
  

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Bailiwick announces change in management – Kevin Mayes takes on David Zak’s position of Executive Director

KevinMayes Bailiwick Repertory Theatre’s Artistic Director, David Zak, and its Board President, Don Cortelyou, have announced that Artistic Associate Kevin Mayes has assumed management of the company as Executive Director. Mayes will be leading a group of dedicated Bailiwick artists to reorganize the company and reenergize its artistic mission. David Zak will continue to be involved in the company, and will transition into the role of Artistic Director Emeritus.

“We are excited that Kevin has agreed take on this challenge,” said Board President Don Cortelyou, “and look forward to supporting him, along with a core team of Artistic Associates, as they work together to continue Bailiwick’s remarkable 27-year legacy.”

Says David Zak:

Running the Bailiwick has been an incredible life experience, and I’m so proud of the work we’ve done, especially the world premieres we’ve produced with artists like Larry Kramer, Dennis DeYoung, and Claudia Allen, among many, many others. But I look forward to handing the reigns over to Kevin. He has worked closely with me over the past five years, and he cares deeply about the mission of the Bailiwick. I know that he, along with the other extremely talented and motivated Artistic Associates who have stepped up to the plate, will do great things together. I look forward to working with them as a close advisor and director of future productions.

Kevin Mayes has been an active member of the Chicago theater scene for the last decade. He has twice been nominated for Best Actor in a Musical by the Jeff Committee (My Favorite Year and A Man of No Importance), and has worked as a Director and Musical Director in both Chicago and New York. He worked closely with Lloyd Richards at the O’Neill Theater’s National Playwrights Conference, and with Wendy Wasserstein on the original production of The Sisters Rosensweig at Lincoln Center. He has his degree in Theater and Music from Yale University, and has more than 15 years executive management experience working with large corporations as well as small start-ups.

Says Kevin Mayes:

We’ve had our challenges over the past few years, many related to the state of the economy, and others due to the dynamic nature of the Chicago theater market,” said Mayes.  “But I’m extremely excited by the opportunity to lead this organization forward. My initial focus will be on improving our operations and fiscal stability. Meanwhile, I hope that the artistic community and our faithful audiences will support us as we redefine – and recommit to – our artistic mission. I’m very excited to work with this passionate group of actors, directors, designers, and stage managers. I’m also extremely thankful to David for his vote of confidence, and look forward to his advice and counsel over the coming months in his new role.

Plans for the 2009-2010 season are currently under review, and will be announced at a later date.

Celebrate Bailiwick with Alexandra Billings (and friends)

billings

 

On Sunday, July 26, at 8:00, Bailiwick family and friends will gather in Center on Halsted’s Hoover-Leppen Theatre, to

 

 

 

Celebrate Bailiwick 

with Alexandra Billings 

*and friends*

 

Alexandra_Billings 

Artists scheduled to perform include Alexandra Billings, Bailiwick Artistic Associate Alanda Coon, Susan May, Dana Tretta, George Andrew Wolff, Jeremy Rill, Danni Smith, (from the cast of The Cousins Grimm) and Rus Rainear and Eric Martin (from the cast of Bombs Away)
.
Musical Direction is by Robert Ollis, with bassist Larry Gray
The event is produced by Lampkin Music Group.
Sponsored by Rick Kogan and WGN

I hope you will join us for an evening of music and stories, celebrating my long association with Bailiwick.  How many years has it been since Gypsy with Susan May at 1229 W Belmont?  Or Son of Fire with Will Chase at Theatre Building Chicago? Oy!  Come join me for a fun evening celebrating friendship and music.

                                                                           Alexandra Billings

Tickets: $25 General Admission, or $30 for reserved priority seating.
Call 773 883 1090 to reserve or 1800 838 3006, or order on line at www.brownpapertickets.com.

From Artistic Director David Zak:

Whether of not you can attend, please consider supporting Bailiwick by making a donation. Checks may be mailed to Bailiwick, 3023 North Clark 327, Chicago, IL 60657. Credit card donations can be made by calling 773 883 1090 or emailing DGZak1@gmail.com. Donations can also be made on-line at www.guidestar.org.

Thank you for your support.

David Zak, and Bailiwick’s Artistic Team

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About Bailiwick:

Founded in 1982, Bailiwick has been a leader in Chicago’s vibrant off-Loop theater scene, earning over 150 Jeff Awards, Citations, and Nominations in every category of artistic excellence.  Bailiwick’s current offerings include the world premiere musical The Cousins Grimm and the Chicago premiere of the comedy Two Spoons, playing in repertory in the Hoover-Leppen Theater of the Center on Halsted, 3656 North Halsted.

View performance schedule on line at www.bailiwick.org, or call 773-883-1090 or 1800 838 3006.  Or order tickets on line at www.brownpapertickets.com.

Picture courtesy of Windy City Media Group.