LiveWire's “A PERMANENT IMAGE” Leaves A Lasting Impression
REVIEWED BY: JOSEPH HILLENMEYER
LiveWire Chicago Theatre in association with the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events is continuing its 2012-2013 season with Samuel D. Hunter’s family drama, “A Permanent Image.”
With direction by LiveWire’s executive director Joshua Aaron Weinstein, the play tells the story of an estranged and dysfunctional family reuniting at the their house in Idaho following the sudden death of Martin, the patriarch. Upon arrival, siblings Bo (Ed Dzialo) and Ally (Mary Williamson) find that their mother, Carol (Janice O’Neill) has painted the entire house white (pictures, books, clocks and furniture) and has started drinking after supposed years of sobriety.
While concerned about their mother’s mental health, the siblings both admit that they don’t feel any great loss by the passing their father, who they describe as distant. Bo is now a photojournalist who travels the world and Ally owns a large piece of property and private transportation company in Northeast Idaho. Neither child has returned to see the family in some time and the parents have only seen their grandchild – through Ally and her wife – one time.
While the family arguments are realistic, I felt they occurred too often and many of the sorties do little to forward the story except continuing to reinforce the point that the family is dysfunctional. A long political fight between the “lesbian republican” and “liberal on a high-horse” journalist has comedic moments and reveals some about the siblings, but not a lot about the mother, the more intriguing character in the room.
Other elements of the story seem less believable, however, as the descriptions of their father being distant clash with memories of him “videotaping every single moment of [their] lives.”
Perhaps he was distant from being on the other side of the lens all the time, but when thinking of distant parents I imagine a drunkard in a bar or womanizer living across town with a new wife, not a home movie fanatic.
The play does draw the audience back in with an interesting twist when the circumstances of Martin’s death are revealed by the mother during an early-morning cocktail hour. The story would have benefited greatly had it spent more time dealing with the personal revelations of the parents prior to Martin’s death, as that aspect was for more engrossing than the sibling rivalry and political differences. After the children left home, Martin and Carol stumbled upon some information that forced them to confront their minor role in the grand scheme of things and it changes their lives forever.
Although deceased, Martin himself also makes some posthumous appearances through video monologues that he recorded for his children in his final days. The visual effects were an entertaining and creative aspect of the play, especially in the final scene, and for the April 6 press performance were carried out with only a few glitches.
The acting in the production was excellent
from all characters and O’Neill did a great job balancing Carol as a women who seems to be losing her sanity to her children, but maybe gaining control of her life for the first time. While a few aspects of the story left me with questions, there was no question that LiveWire makes the most of Hunter’s unique script and delivers a great performance.
“A Permanent Image” runs through May 5 at The Storefront Theater, 66 E. Randolph St., Chicago. Tickets are available at livewirechicago.