Total Rating: 
February 24, 2018
20% Theater
Theater Type: 
Flat Irons Building
Theater Address: 
1579 North Milwaukee Avenue
Caridad Svich
Denise Yvette Serna

When a play's synopsis begins, "Well, there's these three sisters," we immediately think of Chekhov, but the women of the Glimord clan are a long way from the bored, pampered, upper-class Misses Prozorov.

For one thing, they live in rural North Carolina—not in a swanky country-club mansion, but a shabby frame house in need of repair, just off Highway 40 (dubbed "Tobacco Road" for its surrounding landscape). For another, their father was no decorated general, but a hard-drinking wastrel who abandoned their late mother to a lifetime of toil in the fields. On her deathbed, six years earlier, she charged Evelyn Jane with the care of her siblings—an assignment forcing the still teenage eldest daughter to forgo her plans for college and marriage.

What the "Glimmer girls"—as their neighbor Hector calls them—share with their Russian predecessors is boredom. Evelyn's is rooted in frustration over holding down "ten tiny jobs" in order to provide for herself and high school-dropout youngest sister Alijah "Ali" Margaret, who dreams of becoming a championship boxer like middle-sister Alexandra "Lexie" Ray, due to come home today from a tour in the desert wars.

While Evelyn grumbles over her kin's ingratitude and ignores the smitten Hector's courtly advances, Ali prowls the bars looking for a fight—but only if attached to a cash prize—and Lexie battles PTSD, we gradually stop anticipating cataclysmic Chekhovian crises and instead come to appreciate the resiliency of those who just "get through what we get through." By the end of Caridad Svich’s Spark, each character has made some small progress toward a happier future—in Lexie's case, with the assistance of another ex-GI (who might well be a ghost) during a graveyard beer-bash.

The concept of women seeking their fortune in the ring or on the battlefield may baffle audiences accustomed to conventional gender roles, but Svitch is not a playwright to traffic in sexist stereotypes. However remote the experience of the Gilmords may be from our own, Denise Yvette Serna's subtle direction, a cast delivering full-bodied, delicate-subtexted performances, a minimalist stage ambience detailed down to individual birdsongs—indeed, every aspect of this 20% Theatre production—ensures our emotional investment in the realization of their goals.

This review first appeared in Windy City Times, 1/18
Mary Shen Barnidge
Date Reviewed: 
January 2018