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Review: Life Separates Us (Oracle Theatre)

By Chicagotheaterbeat @chitheaterbeat


Review: Life Separates Us (Oracle Theatre)

Life Separates Us

Written by Sean Farrell
Directed by Bill Ryan
at Oracle Theatre, 3809 N. Broadway  (map)
thru Sept 25  | tickets: FREE  | more info

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Talented cast commemorates 9/11


Review: Life Separates Us (Oracle Theatre)

Oracle Productions presents


Life Separates Us

Review by Katy Walsh 

9/11 changed everything.  The inconceivable happened. Commercial planes were used as weapons of mass destruction. The terrorist attack left nearly 3,000 dead and the rest of the nation severely scarred.  Americans became vulnerable.  They tried to find solace in a newly-formed Homeland Security or renewed alliance to ancient Church roots.  People were suffering and wanted to be comforted.  As part of its “Remember America in Commemoration of the September 11th Terrorists Attacks,” Oracle Productions presents Life Separates Us

Two couples join a therapy group.  Both marriages are shaky.  A mysterious fifth person joins their mix.  Although a therapist has hand-picked the combo, his reasoning isn’t apparent.  But then commonalities surface:  9/11, religion, mothers, babies.  Assaults happen.  Victims identify.  Alliances form.  There is a powerful awakening as survivors make life decisions.  Life Separates Us looks passionately at the aftermath of an implosion. 

The format of this play is fascinating.  Although there are snippets of character development scenes, the majority of the show occurs as group therapy sessions.  The therapist is never heard or seen, but the actors interact with this facilitator.  It’s an interesting choice by Playwright Sean Farrell.  He fills the therapy room with big personalities.  Farrell’s characters are distinct.  Spouses share side stories that provide a deeper look at the couple and the individual.  It’s natural and relatable.  Ongoing ‘deal breakers‘ are identifiable for any couple.  There is a strong familiar connection.  As the ensemble faces out in a semi-circle, an imaginary line extends out and connects the audience into the group.  There were multiple occasions that I had to bite my tongue because my natural inclination is to talk up in groups.  When characters posed questions to Jerry, the invisible therapist, I found myself looking for him in the audience.  

Under the direction of Bill Ryan, angst runs high amongst this talented cast.  Most notably, Daniel Gilbert (David) projects loud-mouthed intensity.  Playing self-righteous with vibrant flare, Gilbert bullies his way through the sessions.  Gilbert is a complete tool!  As his wife, Kelsey Jorissen (Sarah) transforms from manipulator to victim to survivor with heart-tugging poignancy. The solid chemistry between Candice Johnson (Ali) and Matthew Chapman (Steve) amuses with hilarious compatibility.  Johnson is high-strung, controlling. Chapman balances her with stoner-induced tolerance.  In between throw-downs, they charm as a couple with inside jokes.  Throughout the show, the odd-man-out is elusive.  His storyline is not as understandable.  Played with equal parts of reserve, confusion, and panic, William Goblirsh (Tom) draws the group together.  Goblirsh’s vacant presence is haunting.  Again, I’m prompted multiple times to cross the room to offer him comfort.  I stay in my seat and therapy continues.

Life Separates Us… sure!  But this play doesn’t!  It puts you within the circle of trust  to find resolution.  The authentic performances will elicit emotions and opinions.  The hardest part will be allowing the show to go on without your interference.  


Rating: ★★★


Review: Life Separates Us (Oracle Theatre)

Oracle Theatre’s Life Separates Us continues through September 25th at Oracle Theatre, 3809 N. Broadway (map), with performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 7pm. Tickets are free, but must be reserved via their website, or by sending a text to 252-220-0269. In order to keep tickets free, you can sponsor a seat by donating to the company – more info here. (Running time: 100 minutes, which includes one intermission)

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