Apple Tree Theatre
Had this play not been the last written by Wendy Wasserstein, the script may have gone largely unnoticed. The exposition is clunky, the main character is not in any way sympathetic, and the subject matter may have been better served by an essay or short story. Despite the set backs in the text, Apple Tree Theatre managed to put together a nice night of theatre.
The story is somewhat of a reverse Oleanna. A staunchly feminist professor at a small private school takes a dislike to a student-athlete who happens to also be less liberal than her. Convinced that the student could not have written such an original essay on King Lear, the professor accuses him of cheating. And while the student is eventually found to have not cheated, he looses his scholarship, his academic career there is ruined and he is forced to transfer to Ohio State.
But that is not the real story. The compelling plot is the dialogue between the main character and her colleague who is suffering from cancer. As the play evolves, we see more and more that this is perhaps a dialogue with two different parts of Wendy Wasserstein herself: her younger-more cynical self and her older self that may have gained some perspective over the years.
The play itself is not worth seeing – there is a reason that this is playing in the suburbs and not within the city limits of Chicago. There are, however, some wonderful performances. Best of all was Susan Felder who played the professor having to deal with cancer – she had a very lovely and real touch to everything she did. The student, played by Michael Gonring, turned a nice performance and make his character very likable and endearing. Jim Farrell also did nicely as the professor’s father suffering from Alzheimer’s who paralleled King Lear in the story and Farrell’s performance too is just a step away from the King himself.