I know sometimes folks feel a tiny quiver of disappointment when they discover the show they are going to see has only one performer. Perhaps such reactions have roots in those old-school advertisements for Hollywood epics in which any picture having "a cast of thousands" would be guaranteed as irresistible, monumental and unforgettable. But I find well-done, one-person shows, are often enormously entertaining, full of excitement and easy-to-connect with the actor's focused, approachable performance.
Over the years, many one-person shows were tributes to famous personalities, like Emily Dickinson or Golda Meir. Julie Ganey, however, has written and performs her own story. Good Enough is a delightful and thought-provoking personal confrontation with some of the playwright's own issues and values.
Ganey, who has performed at 16th Street Theater in other shows, presents her humorous and insightful autobiographical 80-minute drama at the old 16th Street performance space, not the new theater which is still being renovated in the former VFW Post 2378 at 1529 S. Harlem Avenue.
Director Megan Shuchman has effectively shaped Ganey's work so it flows smoothly, seeming more like a conversation than a monologue.
Donna Miller is featured on the cello. When I first learned this would be part of the performance, I worried the music might be overpowering or distracting. Not to worry. Miller is very good, amplifying and emphasizing some bits, but not playing constantly. The additional "soundtrack" by Mike Przgoda blends in other musical punctuation and sound effects. It's quite effective.
Ganey is a middle-age white liberal mom from diverse Rogers Park on the far North Side of Chicago. She focuses her dialogue on a particular period — an in-depth look at a specific point in her recent life. Her solo drama captures events and reactions from a time not long ago. She does not attempt to portray her entire life story, although she does include a few pieces of her past, which enlighten and entertain us. When she was very young, for instance, she was fascinated by the harrowing and often gruesome biographies of martyred saints. Early on, Ganey takes note that these figures were also rebels.
In the intimate 16th Street Theater space, Ganey comes across as funny, thoughtful and chatty. Although she feels strongly about lots of stuff, she never comes across as preachy, know-it-all or annoying. She and her husband, Brad, have a teenage daughter, Dorothy, a soccer player who attends a better school that had a lot more to offer in Lincoln Park than the one where her mother gives so much of her time volunteering in theater workshops and seminars to prevent bullying. Ganey campaigned to get the girl the best that was available for her, yet now feels guilty she did. She was not bribing anyone financially to get Dorothy enrolled, but was she wrong to work the system as she did?
Ganey's widowed father, a bright and logical man in his upper 70s, is a fiscal conservative who in recent years has had more disagreements with his daughter.
The actress has many gifts. She is able to draw her audience in so that you feel as if it's just the two of you having a discussion. With her issues and conflicts, she reminds me of several of my Oak Park neighbors. She's a kind and generous person, a do-gooder who nevertheless has periodic personal conflicts within her own value system. Ganey routinely helps out a homeless immigrant who "works" an intersection on Sheridan Road. She wonders if she should do more — or less.
Ganey effectively rations herself as she speaks. Periodically she turns away from us to breathe and drink some water.
Good Enough is smart and enjoyable. By the end of the play, I felt like I'd known Julie Ganey a long time, though I'd never met her before. She's a seemingly effortless performer and a gifted writer.
See "Good Enough," Thursdays and Fridays, 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 5 and 8 p.m.; and select Sundays, 3 p.m., through April 20. $30, reserved seating; $22, general seating; $18, military families, low-income, Berwyn residents. Tickets/more: 16thstreettheater.org/season-twelve-2019. 6420 W. 16th St., Berwyn.
Answer Book 2019
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