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‘A Twist of Water’ Highlights Depth of Chicago Theater

Original play smoothly navigates themes of loss and reinvention.

Though New York captures much of the nation’s attention when it comes to live theater and stage originality — Chicago once again falling into its “Second City” moniker — there’s little denying the strength of Chicago’s theatrical heritage and the boom of its voice. From cutting edge theaters such as The Second City and Lookingglass to original works that have achieved commercial and critical acclaim — Grease and A Steady Rain being a historical and recent example, respectively — Chicago has the talent and ingenuity to match any of the nation’s marquee theater scenes. 

Count A Twist of Water as a current example.

Originally opened by the Route 66 Theatre Company at Theater Wit in February, Twist has found new life — and a bigger home for its crafty, spirited show — at the reopened Mercury Theater in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood where it will run through June 5. The production, directed by Erica Weiss, serves as a brilliant example of just how bright Chicago’s theatrical star shines and just how much this city’s storytellers can innovate.

Caitlin Montanye Parrish’s original work shares the story of Noah (played by Route 66 founder and artistic director Stef Tovar), a widowed, 39-year-old, gay high school teacher and his adopted daughter, Jira (Falashay Pearson). A year after the sudden death of Richard, Noah’s husband and Jira’s preferred dad, the father-daughter tandem struggles with the realities of life in transition. The plot complicates when Jira pushes to find her birth mother for “more family” and Noah pursues a romantic relationship with Liam (Alex Hugh Brown), Noah’s colleague, Jira’s English teacher, and a character filled with sarcasm and wit to balance out the play’s weighty issues.

Thought provoking and insightful, Twist touches upon issues central to the human existence — grief, family, love, and personal reinvention — with tact, depth and humanity. In Noah, it’s the delicate situation of entering into new love after heartbreak; in Jira, it’s the teen’s quest to find the unknown and the self as she navigates the choppy waters of loss and uncertainty.

All of this is set against the backdrop of Chicago, a city that has encountered the parallel issues of turbulence and reinvention. Indeed, Twist offers a history lesson of a city far from second, personifying the city’s resilience and persistence throughout its history — not so unlike the individual quest Noah and Jira encounter in the wake of Richard’s sudden passing. For the city and its inhabitants, life moves much like water: onward.

Above all, Twist showcases the depth and power of the original work to be found on Chicago area stages and confirms what we Chicagoans have long known: Chicago is second to none.

 A Twist of Water, best suited for mature teen and adult audiences, runs at the Mercury Theater, 3745 N. Southport Ave. in Chicago, through June 5, 2011. Shows are scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Thursday; 8:00 p.m. on Friday; 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. on Saturday; and 4:00 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $38.50-44.50. For additional information, call the box office at 773-325-1700 or visit www.mercurytheaterchicago.com.

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