In Route 66's remounting of "the play that Rahm Emanuel attended," now at the newly reopened Mercury Theatre, Noah teaches high school social studies. As he lectures to his class (the audience) about Chicago’s past we discover that the history lesson is also a metaphor for Noah’s rocky relationship with his adopted daughter. Noah is a widowed gay parent struggling to cope with his husband’s death while trying to strengthen communication with his rebellious daughter (who’s bent on finding her birth mother) and attempting to forge a new relationship with a younger fellow teacher. Noah, like the city itself, will not be thwarted by fire, wind, water or any other challenges, rising from the ashes stronger and wiser for the experience.
Noah’s story is a heart-rending, eloquent new play by Caitlin Montanye Parrish, collaborating with Erica Weiss, the production’s director. An homage to the perseverance of this “City of Big Shoulders,” it is also a tribute to every stalwart citizen who calls Chicago his home. Named for the ocean-like Lake Michigan upon whose shores it is located, the very nature of water shapes this story of love and survival. Played upon a simple set enveloped in rippled canvas, upon which John Boesche’s marvelous, sometimes animated historical projections flow, this play touches the heart with its spirit.
Stef Tovar bares his soul as Noah, a middle-aged parent trying desperately to reconnect with Jira, his adopted daughter (touchingly played by teenage actress Falashay Pearson), while beginning a new relationship with Liam (brilliant newcomer Alex Hugh Brown), the young English teacher who brings poetry, humor and wisdom to their world. Lili-Anne Brown is touching and strong as Tia, the mother who gave up Jira because she was just a baby herself. Altogether, this exquisite cast bathes in the waters of truth.