Review Roundup: The World Premiere of A SWELL IN THE GROUND at The Gift Theatre
A SWELL IN THE GROUND runs through December 10 at The Gift Theatre. In intimate rooms throughout New York, four friends from college fight through 17 years of love affairs, shattered dreams and compromised lives. Flipping back and forth through time like a photo book, this play-whose title is from a line of Emily Dickinson poetry-is equally breathtaking and heartbreakingly spare as Olivia, Nate, Abagail, and Charles try to reconcile the lives they imagined with the lives they live.
A SWELL IN THE GROUND was written by Janine Nabers, and is directed by Chika Ike with scenic design by Eleanor Kahn, costume design by Rachel Lambert, lighting design by Eric Watkins, sound design by Christopher Kriz, and video/projection design by Smooch Medina.
Let's see what the critics had to say!
Chris Jones, The Chicago Tribune: But there are some cutting scenes, believe me, all worried over by a very competent cast probing such unchanging challenges as commitment phobia, the residual impact of collegiate indiscretion and, well, the thing that brings a lot of relationships to their knees: one party being aimless and the other intensely ambitious. That's the swell in the ground for a lot of lovers, and there can be a wasp's nest inside. Now this promising play must better make us feel its sting.
Catey Sullivan, Perform Ink Chicago: That said, the cast - especially Nalepa's slightly sardonic, inwardly vulnerable Abigail - is quite good. As Nate, Neagle is also effective, subtly capturing the heartbreak that ensues as he morphs from infinitely hopeful college senior to an almost-thirtysomething trapped in a career path he loathes. A lesser cast would mug their way through the emotional breakthroughs and outbursts that come as the characters work through their Issues. That they don't is a credit to Ike and the ensemble.
Alexis Bugajski, Picture This Post: A Swell In The Ground touches on a lot of issues that young adults might relate to - finding satisfaction in your career, dealing with the death of a parent, losing your identity, wondering if your college relationship is the love of a lifetime. Playwright Janine Nabers weaves all of these throughout the story without it being obvious. Everything is subtle in this play where nothing is given away, but all the information is slowly given to us by the end.
Hedy Weiss, The Chicago Sun-Times: The actors, under the airtight direction of Chika Ike, are ideal, and as those who have been to The Gift know, they are up close and personal - barely a couple of feet from the audience. Charles, who taps into her rarely exposed vulnerable side here, expertly morphs from fractured daughter and unhappy wife in a first marriage, to a certain cool peacefulness with the man who can provide her with the many different forms of stability and understanding she clearly needs.
Photo: Claire Demos