Eclectic Full Contact Theatre is a delightfully talented ensemble championing theatre in Chicago. Like many companies, when then pandemic hit, EFCT was forced to find other ways to channel its creative juices to get to audiences. This ranged from audio plays to productions at remote suburban locations. And to be sure, each of those productions lived up to the high level of quality that audiences have come to expect from EFCT founders Andrew Pond and Jessica Lauren Fisher.
Now, EFCT is thrilled to announce their first full-length production in Chicago since 2019, the world premiere of The Wonder by Maggie Lou Rader. For this stunning premiere, EFCT will be taking the stage April 21 – May 13 at the wonderful Edge Theatre located at 5451 N Broadway.
“Chicago is the best city for theatre, hands down, and the opportunity to jump back in and remind everyone that we’re still here, and still part of the community—it’s exhilarating,” says Pond.
No feeling is more powerless than parenting a child with an untreatable illness. Nor is there any feeling that could be more painful than the eventuality of saying goodbye. So, if an allegedly supernatural occurrence could ease the grief and offer hope, would you accept it? This is the question asked by Rader in her touching drama The Wonder.
Inspired by the first reported case of spirit possession in America, this 2021 Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference honoree explores the emotions faced by two Illinois families, and the enigmatic events that would keep their daughters’ memories alive. At heart, it’s a story about how love can transcend even the veil between life and death.
“We wanted to come back to city performances in a big way, and this show fit the bill. It’s a show that touches on a subject that everyone has experienced—loss, but in a way that is ultimately hopeful and heartwarming, as the focus is more on what a loving family will for to take care of each other before—and after—that loss occurs,” explains Pond. “It’s ultimately a celebration of familial love, and its eternal nature.”
The play stars Jill Thiel as Anne Roff, Timothy Sullivan as Asa Roff, Tina-Kim Nguyen as Mary Roff, Idalia Limon as Lurinda Vennum, and Isabella Valdez as Lurancy Vennum. Understudies include Maiko Terazawa (Anne u/s), Ronen Kohn (Asa u/s), Electra Tremulis (Mary u/s), Beaumondo Malone (Lurinda u/s), and Thomas Russell (Lurancy u/s).
The Wonder is directed by Gaby Labotka who previous directed a Rader piece for EFCT’s Half Hour Audio Hour podcast. The production team includes Zach Osterman (Stage Manager), Daniel Houle (Production Manager/Set Design), Lena Aubrey (Lighting Design), Andrew Pond (Sound Design), Sallie Ann Young (Assistant Stage Manager/Assistant Sound Design), Emily Bloomer (Costume Design), and Jessica Lauren Fisher (Props).
In addition to being an emotionally moving script, The Wonder is what Pond describes as the most technically ambitious show EFCT has done in its ten-year history. It’s a challenge that he says was “irresistible.”
“What Gaby’s has brought to the stage, with the actors, and then the technical elements thanks to our rockstar designers who did about a month’s worth of work in a week and a half, is breathtaking,” raves Pond. “I am immensely proud of this show.”
In addition to presenting The Wonder at The Edge Theatre, Eclectic Full Contact Theatre continues to present its popular Patchwork New Play Festival. Later this year they will be introducing a new Crashbox Audio Play Festival and undertaking a search for a new permanent home for the company. You can check for updates at www.Eclectic-Theatre.com.
For now, I encourage you to grab tickets for what I truly expect to be a touching and moving theatrical experience. The Wonder runs Thursdays through Sundays through April 21 – May 13th. Performances are at 7:30 PM on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings. Matinees are Saturdays at 2 PM and Sundays at 3 PM.
Livestream options are available.
For tickets and more information go to: Tinyurl.com/thewondertix
Peace. Love. Trust.
Rikki Lee Travolta
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