Ray Bradbury’s ‘The Martian Chronicles’ Inventively Come to Life in Chicago Church Theater

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CHICAGO – There was opportunity aplenty for director Kristina Schramm to miss this mark and leave theatergoers with acidic resentment. Tasked with the tall order of bringing to life Ray Bradbury’s classic anthology “The Martian Chronicles,” though, she wasn’t bested by the oddity of the undertaking.

Instead, the cast and crew of this Chicago production inventively transformed the Lincoln Square Theatre – set squarely within a North Side church – into Mars where Martians roamed with normalcy.

The Martian Chronicles

Instead of E.T. descending upon Earth, though, earthlings in this twist of storytelling pervade the aboriginal Martians in their native land for exploration, dreams of dollar signs and even succulent hot dogs.

Bradbury was used to reversing the traditional pendulum of the written word through the toils of his own path for fame, which he realized at the nascent age of 30.

He churned out succinct vignettes when publishers kept requesting traditional novels. His novel approach, in fact, turned into his trademark.

Making full use of a spacious, open stage to embody the story of these stories, Schramm and her gang don’t make quick use of the illustrious words from 1950. They take the time to serve them justice. Just like in Bradbury’s ink, Schramm uses a “future history” structure whereby the plots gel as chapters in a larger chronological narrative skeleton.

Lighting (by Casey Diers) and audibles (sound design by Geraldo de Oliveira and original music by John Bohnert) especially play a starring role in making you feel at home on Mars and fuse naturally with in-the-moment acting.

Benjamin Hailie in his second character as the kingpin of a freak show was dealt a particularly double-edged sword in that he mastered his material even though Schramm should have seriously abbreviated that tangential subplot.

Liz Ladach-Bark as the mysteriously deadpan narrator was hauntingly memorable and the play without her would have left a gaping void. Costume designer Nathan R. Rohrer excelled at the opportunity to transform his subjects into Martians. His use of masks effortlessly identified the difference between the disparate species.

The naming of these Martian extraterrestrials – on which Bradbury has inflicted the cancerous touch of the human race – rings with hilarity even when said in monotone. Imagine calling your friend, Bill, by the name III, NNN, RRR, TTT, UUU or WWW.

As well, Jae K. Renfrow as XXX was most certainly not at all reminiscent to Vin Diesel’s “xXx” and Chicago’s reenactment of “The Martian Chronicles” in general stands on its own with distinction.

“The Martian Chronicles” runs through March 30 at the Lincoln Square Theatre at 4754 N. Leavitt in Chicago. 8 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 6 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets cost $15.

© 2008 Adam Fendelman, HollywoodChicago.com

HollywoodChicago.com editor-in-chief Adam Fendelman


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