Midsommer Flight’s returning fare for the holidays is perhaps the most delightful Shakespeare I’ve been privy to, made only more magical by the panoramic walk up through the Lincoln Park Zoo lights and the oversized winter decorations hanging above the oversized fauna under the Conservatory’s oversized glass domes. Talk about a shift in reality! Welcome to Illyria, boys and girls. It’s TWELFTH NIGHT. Or as known in Western Christian theology — the Day of Epiphany. Or by its alternative title given by the Bard himself — “What You Will.”
Set in December, 1892, Wheeldon’s “Nutcracker” takes place about 15 years before Sinclair’s harrowing novel of the poorest of Chicago’s poor, and while the lavishness is gone from Marie’s Christmas Eve party, the magic and the joy remains.
Ranjit Bolt’s world premiere adaptation is full of all the plotting, panache and pith that are hallmarks of the style. Yet while the style and era are far from our own, the message is not.
From the moment the doors open to the moment the DJ sets off the afterparty music, the feeling of pride, appreciation, and shared company stays the focus of the experience.
When presented with the uncomfortable truth, we are given a choice: to reckon with it, or to keep living in blissful ignorance. Ignorance may be bliss, but the truth is always lurking just below the surface, waiting to be found.
Just as with my first experience watching the film, the story of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE and the joy and connection these artists brought reminded me again that traditions are important. Clearly, this is one American Blues Theater have made their own, and I think I just might join them.