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  Bethany at The Gift Theatre


The Gift Theatre
4802 N. Milwaukee Ave Chicago

Bethany, Laura Marks' trenchant contemporary drama, follows cash-strapped Crystal (Hillary Clemens), who's caught in the middle of the Great Recession and navigating the worlds of motivational speaking, survivalism and a Saturn dealership to make a home for herself. Described by The New York Times as "rare among new American plays in the clear, compassionate attention it pays to the corrosive effects of the economic downturn on the battered middle class," Bethany is a perceptive tale told in The Gift's signature style of great ensemble acting in an intimate space.

Thru - Nov 23, 2014

Price: $20-$30

Show Type: Drama

Box Office: 773-283-7071

Running Time: 1hr, 30mins; no intermission

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  Bethany Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune - Recommended

"..."Bethany" starred America Ferrera in its off-Broadway debut last year. As is typical, the first Chicago production does not have a star name attached. But it does feature Hillary Clemens, a longtime ensemble member at Gift Theatre and a superbly cast and very vulnerable actress. "Bethany" requires that you empathize with the central character of Crystal, that you see yourself in her fragility, that you understand that there but for the grace of God, go you. All of that kicks in beautifully in Gift's production, not the least because Clemens has figured out so well both how to build a facade and also how to allow her audience to see the cracks therein."
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Chris Jones

Chicago Sun Times - Recommended

"...To what lengths will people go to survive? That is the question at the very heart of Laura Marks' "Bethany," the fast-paced psychological thriller now receiving its Chicago premiere in a taut, surprisingly poignant, at moments blackly comic production by The Gift Theatre."
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Hedy Weiss

Chicago Reader - Recommended

"...The smart, agile, indefatigably cheerful mom sets about jumping through every hoop her social worker holds up for her, determined to prove her financial stability and get Bethany back. That requires some logrolling at first. Then it requires a great deal worse. More than a document of the economic meltdown, Bethany becomes a dramatic explication of the phrase dog eat dog. Hillary Clemens makes a fine Crystal, her slight build rendering both her pluck and her vulnerability painfully apparent. She's supported by some sharp, often funny performances, though Mary Anne Bowman is crucially unconvincing as a wronged woman and Courtney O'Neill's set runs into problems involving light leakage."
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Tony Adler

Time Out Chicago - Somewhat Recommended

"...But it becomes clear from the start that a new car isn't what Charlie's interested in. That Crystal takes the measures she does, from humoring Charlie to staying with the troubled and dangerous Gary to her more sensational actions late in the play, begins to seem less determined than delusional. Like her character, Clemens puts her all into selling us on Marks's model. But she can't quite close the deal."
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Kris Vire

Theatre By Numbers - Highly Recommended

"...I could write pages more on how outstanding this show is, but I’d rather you go and see it yourself. So get your tickets! Bethany continues through November 23rd at the Gift Theatre in Jefferson Park. Go nourish your soul with some damn fine theatre."
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Jackie Davies

Splash Magazine - Recommended

"...Director Marti Lyons demonstrates a commanding grasp of the material and presents the material in a respectful but not overly rigid manner. Besides being a commentary on our very recent financial past, Laura Mark’s script is a page turner and Lyons does a good job of keeping the viewer on the edge of his or her seat. It is also the little touches, like Christopher Kriz’s (Original Music and Sound Design) use of stale elevator music within the Saturn dealership, that help to suggest a financial world rotting from the inside."
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Noel Schecter

ChicagoCritic - Recommended

"...Almost bringing them to life before they can even speak. The problem I have with this play is that it makes no sense. The plot ends abruptly. The climax comes without warning. The play paints unrealistic characters who end up being truly despicable people. The ending seems to treat everything like it's resolved, when in reality the problems are only worse. I really can not tell you how I feel about this play. I didn't hate it. The acting was great, the story was interesting when it stayed on track, and the overall theme of desperation is well established and consistent. Overall I would have to say that it's definitely interesting and full of a lot of talent. If you can deal with a few plot holes, it's really not a bad show."
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John Stuckert

Around The Town Chicago - Highly Recommended

"...Both Laura Marks' play "Bethany" and The Gift Theatre's production of it are somewhat unique. Although a contemporary story, Ms. Marks uses sophisticated and primal literary techniques focused on character, such as foil, symbolism, and archetype, to create meaning. However, she is most skilled in plot, creating increasing dramatic tension as the play reaches its conclusion (in this case, resolution would be a misnomer). Though the theatre and stage are very small, the play calls for a relatively large cast, and two separate settings, but Courtney O'Neill and Isabel Strauss have created a backdrop that convincingly switcs back and forth between an unoccupied home and a Saturn dealership while practical and effective blocking by director Marti Lyons, ensures that the many characters never make the stage or play feel claustrophobic."
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Lawrence Riordan

Chicago Theatre Review - Highly Recommended

"...This production is one more reason to make the journey out to Jefferson Park’s growing arts district. The Gift Theatre is a little-known gem that consistently produces terrific productions that are worth seeing and enjoying. For an evening of psychological drama, complete with thrills and chills and a message that’s relevant to today, this is one play that audiences should make every effort to see."
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Colin Douglas

The Fourth Walsh - Highly Recommended

"...Some of the play’s biggest laughs come from these interactions between this duo. As Bethany develops, Crystal’s ambitions also intersect with Farruggio’s motivational speaker, Charlie, whose initial appearances bring additional comic relief, until the story turns darker with a noir-like denouement and some especially tense, convincing fight scenes (superb fight choreography courtesy of John Tovar)."
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Tom Lawler

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   This show has been Jeff Recommended*

*The designation of "Jeff Recommended" is given to a production when at least ONE ELEMENT of the show was deemed outstanding by the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee.

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