Over 20 years ago David Zak, Artistic Director of Bailiwick Repertory, introduced an exciting, innovative and much-needed new theater festival to Chicago audiences, and in particular to the GLBT community. He called it The Pride Series and it featured imaginative, innovative plays that illuminated or satirized aspects of the gay experience. This year, Bailiwick's final presentation of this series at its Belmont Avenue address, three very different plays make their Chicago premieres.
David Brendan Hopes' "Anna Livia, Lucky in Her Bridges" tells a story about love's strength and stamina. Shifting back and forth between Bloomsday of 1904 and the present, between the living and ghosts, between shops, bistros and shadowy bridges, three stories are intertwined: Ellen, a young woman desperate to keep James Joyce, her lover, from falling into the arms of another girl; her brother Des who, against all advice, is determined to sacrifice everything for the love of a young American man; and their younger brother Barry, whose love of Ireland blindly drives him to join the resistance.
The play is told with poetic beauty, but it is enigmatic. It is often confusing and a bit difficult to follow, much like the works of James Joyce. Adding a live cellist (David Keller) on stage, however, is a great stroke of genius. He provides a moody, often eerie transition between scenes and time periods. While all four actors share moments of grace and brilliance, it is Timothy Martin as Des who stands out in this production. Grounded, well-spoken and comfortable with the dialect, Martin is earnest and believable as he draws us into his world.