Lookingglass’ STILL ALICE Is In No Wonderland

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There are a lot of layers to mentally process while watching the Lookingglass’ emotionally wrenching premiere of Still Alice. Based on the book by Lisa Genova and adapted/directed by ensemble member Christine Mary Dunford, this intimate production takes a truthful look at the fallout of a dementia diagnosis.

Ms. Dunford has made the story’s location Chicago centric and has cast the show to perfection. Eva Barr, one of the theatre company’s founders, plays Northwestern University Professor Alice Howland whose analytical brain breaks down before our eyes. As the process unfolds, the close knit family is forced to adjust and accept the inevitable, including her husband (Christopher Donahue) who seemingly puts his career before his wife’s care; her attorney son (Cliff Chamberlain) who desperately wants his mother’s attention while she can still give it; and her daughter (Joanne Dubach) who is more connected to her mother than its seems at the outset. Over all of this we have Alice’s brain/conscious self (Mariann Mayberry) as her self-narrator.

Still Alice succeeds on many levels and for those who have a personal connection with the illness, I’m sure this play is emotionally devastating in its truthfulness. However, there are issues in its theatricality that somewhat limit the full effect to the mass audience. Case in point, as mega talented as Mariann Mayberry is, her role as written diminishes that of Ms. Barr’s . Through the use of projections by Mike Tutaj that tell us what we are literally witnessing, the character of “herself” is rendered unnecessary.

That aside, Still Alice is still a relevant and real look at the emotional fallout families have to go through when watching their loved ones disappear before their eyes into a still living hell.

Still Alice runs through May 19, 2013 at the Lookingglass Theatre, 821 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL, call 312-337-0665, www.lookingglasstheatre.org, tickets $36 – $70,Tuesdays thru Sundays at 7:30 pm, matinees on Thursdays, Saturdays & Sundays at 3 pm, running time is one hour,50 minutes without intermission. For calendar information please visit www.TheatreInChicago.com