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Theater

Review: May The Road Rise Up

Vic Kuligoski as Michael, Jose Cervantes as Sam, Julia Rowley as Ruby and Bob Pantalone as Rosie in The Factory Theater’s May The Road Rise Up.
Vic Kuligoski as Michael, Jose Cervantes as Sam, Julia Rowley as Ruby and Bob Pantalone as Rosie in The Factory Theater’s May The Road Rise Up.

They’re Irish, and typically Irish. They wear their emotions on their sleeves … unless it’s something awful from the past and then they just sweep it under the rug. If there was a rug on stage, this family’s would have been difficult for even Sir Edmund Hillary to scale for their secret - known by everyone in town but unknown to the audience - is something so bad they all need to confront it to move forward.

However, their absolute denial to confront their grief has lasted for over a decade. May The Road Rise Up moves them toward said confrontation without a trite ‘get over it’ for their tragedy is not something you can ever get over.

May The Road Rise Up is as ambitiously potent as the Jameson poured, a one-act 90-minute play written by Shannon O’Neill where everything is left on the table. Dialogue is well written, scenes move effortlessly without questioning from the audience. There are a lot of different scenes, which can make it difficult on the director.

However, May The Road Rise Up got a good one.Even with the intimate scale of the Factory Theater, Jeff Award-winning Director Spenser Davis makes full use of the stage, moving seamlessly from scene to scene (with the aid of some fantastic lighting work by David Goodman-Edberg) so much I found myself remarking how well he pulled it off.

The set played well for a typical suburban Irish family’s house as well as a bar – which if you’ve ever spent any time with a large Irish family, the house is pretty much a bar anyway. It’s evident a ton of work went into all the details. A hearty round of applause goes out to the entire stage crew.

The whole cast did a tremendous job and casting was excellent. Patrick Blashill played the elder statesman Danny with pugnacious pugilistic aplomb and a darn good Irish accent (kudos to dialect coach Shane Murray-Corcoran) and the relationship between him and his daughter/Michael’s mother Patricia played by Loretta Rezos was spot-on.

All of the characters were given some juicy lines to deliver, but the one who got the most out of her mic drop moments was Evelyn played by Maggie Cain.

Let’s spend a moment and talk about Vic Kuligoski, who played the returning son Michael, shall we? Good gravy, he does such a fantastic turn as the guilt-ridden Michael for a moment I thought he was going to have a nervous breakdown on stage and they’d have to call a doctor.

There’s a part of me that wishes more time was spent on the details of the awful secret. However, given the Irish in them, the fact any confrontation occurs at all is a minor miracle. The cast was also required to do a lot of what the Second City in me calls ‘object work’ and I think it could be done a bit better.

While the play is quick and full of funny quips, I do believe May The Road Rise Up could also benefit a split into two acts. There is a key moment when Patricia yells at her son that would be a good first act ender to give both the audience and the actors a chance to breathe.

That being said, this is a great night out for us in the north-northwest suburbs and frankly, The Factory Theater deserves your patronage. It’s a little over an hour drive, parking was on the street and only four bucks (I walked a whopping 1/10 of a mile to the theatre). You can eat at Gulliver’s on Howard on the way or go to a fine restaurant in Evanston and take the L to the Howard stop. The Factory Theater is right there.

Irish or not, go.

• Rick Copper is a writer, photographer, storyteller, part-time actor and comedian with a framed master’s degree from the Northwestern Medill School of Journalism and a loose Certificate of Completion sheet of paper from Second City’s improv program. His published works include “Crystal Lake: Incorporation of a city 1914-2014.”

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