BWW Review: Artistry Theater Hits a Home Run with TINKER TO EVERS TO CHANCE
These are the saddest of possible words:
"Tinker to Evers to Chance."
Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,
Tinker and Evers and Chance.
Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
Making a Giant hit into a double -
Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
"Tinker to Evers to Chance."
-"Baseball's Sad Lexicon" by Franklin Pierce Adams
I find it extremely funny that I, a non-sports fan, would see a play the day I got back from Chicago that centers around sports fans and is set in Chicago. As soon as I saw the baseball image on the program, I was hesitant that I wouldn't get the play. But that's the beauty of Tinker to Evers to Chance, a play by Mat Smart: It's about connection, not sports, so anyone can get the play. That is, anyone who has had a strong emotional connection to anything or anyone.
The plot of the play seems to follow the first line of the poem, whose name of the play comes from. A woman, Lauren, comes to Chicago to visit her mother and to see the Chicago Cubs (for those unfamiliar, like myself, a baseball team) possibly win a very important game with her mother, as they are both massive fans. However, when she arrives, she finds not her mother at her apartment, but her mother's caretaker named RJ. Then the plot unfurls with the question of "Where did Lauren's mother go?" This is an extremely terrifying question for our two characters, as Lauren's mom is a stroke survivor; much like Johnny Evers, from the previously mentioned poem, whose storyline has parallels to our main plot; which we also see played out by our two actors. It is a gripping family drama all about what we love and why we want to share it with others.
The two actors' performances are knock-outs. Or should I say "knock-it-out-of-the-parks". Meredith Casey plays Lauren, a frazzled and unstable young woman who searches for her mother. Casey plays Lauren with such raw emotion that you are immediately with her, even though her character can be a bit difficult sometimes. You can watch Casey work and know exactly what's going on in Lauren's head at anytime. As for Joenathon Thomas, playing RJ, I envy Casey. Thomas' eyes are so telling and expressive I wish I could see them as close as Casey does. Thomas' performance is softer and powerful as the concerned caretaker with a secret. Thomas made me care for this character in a way that I hadn't expected to.
I also must give a "well done" to the director Brian Balcom. Sometimes in a small cast show, the stage can seem big and empty. However, Balcom's direction made it seem like the opposite (as a Chicago apartment can be). The stage direction's movement was fluid and never seemed uncredible. And the stage was balanced in ways that were telling to the story.
Baseball's Sad Lexicon rings with the names of some of the Chicago Cubs' greatest players, and Tinker to Evers to Chance rings with great performances all around. There's a line in the poem that goes "Making a Giant hit into a double". Well, Artisity has taken a giant hit of a play and turned it out double.
Tinker to Evers to Chance plays until May 26th at Artistry Theater.
Photo Credit: Devon Cox