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  The Quality Of Life at The Den Theatre

The Quality Of Life

The Den Theatre
1329-1333 N. Milwaukee Chicago

Red and blue state worlds collide in this compassionate and humorous drama that confronts the fundamental human challenge of losing a loved one. Jane Anderson’s hilarious, stirring play puts deep focus on two couples: one dealing with a recent loss and another under the specter of it. Struggling to keep their marriage intact after the death of their daughter, Dinah and Bill, devout church going conservatives from Ohio, visit their left-wing cousins Jeannette and Neil, who’ve just lost their home in the Berkley Hills to a wildfire. Adding fuel to the wildfire, Neil is dying of cancer. But to their cousins’ surprise, the couple, now happily living in a yurt on their burn site, continue to celebrate life with hits of pot and a steady flow of red wine. Sympathy turns to rage, however, when deep-seeded values and uncompromising beliefs are put the ultimate test. Ethical, religious, and moral beliefs about the right to both life and death are on full display in Anderson’s gripping play.

Thru - Dec 9, 2012

Price: $25

Show Type: Comedy/Drama

Box Office: 773-697-3830

  The Quality Of Life Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune - Recommended

"...Dramaturgically, the Midwestern couple's loss evens the stakes very shrewdly, although it certainly puts a lot of weighty issues on the back of the play, all of which takes place outside the tented structure where Neil and Jeannette are living, following a scorching wildfire on their property. The piece is conventionally structured, certainly, and you predict the notes of eventual rapprochement long before they arrive, but this nonetheless remains a notably compassionate piece of writing that suggests a great writerly belief that Americans of very different value systems can find common ground if they break bread together and listen to what worries the other. That's a useful thing to ponder on a contentious Election Day."
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Chris Jones

Chicago Reader - Somewhat Recommended

"...Anderson compromises the drama's authenticity by stacking the deck against the squares and using quick contrivances to launch The View-style discussions of hot-button issues like pot laws and the power of faith. But once the talking points are exhausted, act two ventures into more mature, challenging material. Lia Mortensen's cast ultimately make it clear that death and mourning don't respect party lines."
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Dan Jakes

Time Out Chicago - Highly Recommended

"...Her four actors are uncannily cast, each deftly conveying a recognizable type without descending into caricature. Taylor and Zweifler are particularly on point as the sunny homemaker and pragmatic pothead, respectively. The two pairs start the day cheery and wary, confident their assumptions about each other will be proven true. The unexpectedly funny, ultimately heartrending way those expectations are upended make Anderson’s play an affecting rumination on love, loss and renewal."
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Kris Vire

ShowBizChicago - Recommended

"... Coping with death and dying are intimately explored in The Den Theatre’s exceptionally acted production of Jane Anderson’s 2007 morose play The Quality of Life. In this four-person dramady a born again couple, Diana and Bill, who are recovering from the brutal murder of their daughter, go to California to visit their liberal cousins, Jeannette and Neil, who recently lost their home and most of their possessions to a wildfire. Neil is in the final stages of cancer, so instead of rebuilding their home, he and Jeannette construct a yurt on the property and decide to live their final days together in a more simplistic and non-material manner. As the two estranged couples being to engage, it soon becomes apparent that each will test the other’s morality regarding mortality."
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Michael Roberts

Chicago On the Aisle - Highly Recommended

"...The dialogue about Neil's cancer is specific and unflinching, and Neil leads it. He is still very much alive, an intellectual fully in control of his wits and usually in control of the conversation. It's a delicate test of credibility, to be clearly dying and yet quite forceful at the same time, and Ron Wells - tall, gaunt and fiercely focused - brings it off with compelling conviction. What's more, his physically waning Neil conveys genuine intellectual integrity. He's a seeker of truth ever willing to consider all sides of an issue. It's a virtue that Jeanette sometimes finds exasperating in her husband, and we see the proof more than once."
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Lawrence B. Johnson

Splash Magazine - Highly Recommended

"...Sensitively, brilliantly and beautifully Jane Anderson brings us into the lives of two couples. The women are cousins. Dinah (Jennifer Taylor) and Bill (Stephen Spencer), devout church going conservatives from Ohio decide to visit their left-wing cousins Jeannette (Liz Zweifler) and Neil (Ron Wells). They have just lost their home in the Berkeley Hills to a wildfire but are seemingly living happily in a Tibetan yurt on their burn site and are calmly facing Neil’s terminal cancer."
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Barbara Keer

ChicagoCritic - Recommended

"... All four performers had their momentsbut Liz Zweifler as Jeanetteand Ron Wellsas Neil were particularly effective. Playwright Anderson suregets theissue ofdeath and itspresentand pasteffects woven into a real life scenario that surely will be played out in aging America. Thisengrossing drama honestly deals with issues we all must eventually dealwith- grieving of a lost loved one and the complications of our own morality. Kudos to Anderson for putting faceson theissue."
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Tom Williams

Chicago Now - Highly Recommended

"...Playwright Jane Anderson wrote a thought-provoking exploration of marriage. Anderson creates two very distinctly different couples. These two pairs challenge each other and the audience to explore life and death from different angles. The dialogue is witty AND gritty. Under the expert direction of Lia D. Mortensen, this *quality* cast is first-rate. Subtle touches showcase a long-term relationship... a lingering glance, a gentle touch, a scooting over. It's hard to believe Jennifer Taylor (Dinah) & Stephen Spencer (Bill) and Ron Wells (Neil) & Liz Zweifler aren't married. They sure act like it."
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Katy Walsh

Around The Town Chicago - Highly Recommended

"... Values! When it comes to our lives and our lifestyles, we all have our own set of values. In “The Quality of Life”, a Chicago premiere, now on stage at The Den Theatre, Jane Anderson, we become involved with two families. One , a typical Midwestern couple, who recently lost their daughter and the other a west coast couple, who have recently lost their home to a fire, but of even greater importance, where the man is dying of cancer. The women are cousins, but have not had much communication,but Dinah ( Jennifer Joan Taylor) thinks that she and her husband Bill ( Steve Spencer) take the trip out to California. These couples are as different as night and day. Bill and Dinah are Church-going who are having trouble dealing with the horrific loss of their daughter. So much, that their marriage is falling apart. On the other hand Neil ( deftly handled by Ron Wells) and Jeanette ( a powerful performance by Liz Zweifer) are dealing with all that has happened in their lives with wine drinking and pot smoking ( medicinal purposes as Neil is dealing with cancer pain). Their home has burned and they are now living in a “yurt” ( a tent structure), eating outdoors and kind of enjoying the freedom."
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Alan Bresloff

Sheridan Road - Highly Recommended

"...Skilled director Lia Mortensen, meanwhile, uses her deep insight to assure that this Chicago premiere is one of the finest productions that the entire theater season has had to offer. With a discerning eye and emotional grace, she guides her seasoned cast to imaginatively layered performances."
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Brian Kirst

Chicago Theatre Review - Highly Recommended

"...The production team also created an environment that permitted the script to show its strengths without feeling forced or overdesigned. Set just outside the yurt, scenic designer Henry Behel has gathered an eclectic array of furnishings and knickknacks that give the audience an instant feel for who these free spirits are. Andrew Vanderbye's lighting design includes a few elegant practicals, and Melissa Schlesinger's sound design consisted of an interesting array of Beetle's music."
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Rachel Parent

   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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