Chicago Equity Premiere
Edward Albee's
The Lady From Dubuque

Review by Kevin O'Donnel|

Organic Theater Company's opening of Edward Albee's 'The Lady From Dubuque' is a smartly paced polished performance.

The play begins as three young couples are playing twenty questions in the dramatic form of the more familiar Albee play 'Virginia Wolf.' Here is raging warfare between husbands, wives, and friends. The hostess Jo (Rohanna S. Doylida) is the sharpest of the group, but dying of cancer and the clue to the larger metaphor of this play. Other clues pour out of the bottle and out of the mouths of Jo's guests. lt becomes apparent that the template for this drama is the Elizabeth Kubler-Ross book 'On Death and Dying.' The movie 'All That Jazz' used the same metaphor, but does not have the multiple arcs of this play.

Rejection, Anger, Bargaining, Acceptance, and Death are Kubler-Ross's steps in dying and become the characters of the play 'The Lady From Dubuque.' Tears of poor Lucinda (Leslie Charlpar) and a wounded Edgar (Greg Kolack) are Rejection. A violent brutish Fred (Kevin Kenneally) is more than symbolic of Anger. Sam (Robert Ayres) talks of negotiating, a synonym for Bargaining, while Carol(Farrel Wilson)has a genial philosophy of Acceptance. it is lett for Jo to Die.

Enter a deus ex machina duo of the Lady from Dubuque (Lynette Gaza) and her friend Oscar (Phillip Edward Van Lear). The lady claims to be Jo's mother, but Jo's husband Sam does not believe her and the lady's worldly air and highbrow speech are not from Dubuque. Her Black friend, dressed to the nines, says he is a martial arts expert from Japan. He proves his knowledge of the arts, but from Japan???? We sense another metaphor, that of identity and wonder why the group is now calling Sam 'Sambo,' when clearly even if it is politically incorrect, the name would fit the identity of the lady's Black friend.

Dramaturg Christopher Grobe's notes quote Edward Albee that, "'The Lady From Dubuque' says that our identity is created by other people's need for our identity to exist. Our existence depends on our usefulness."

This is a statement disproved by Edward Albee's life and any other playwright who manages to get his or her Work staged. The only way they got them staged was by believing in their work a whole lot more than others disbelieved. One's identity may be influenced, but does not come from others. Society is deeply rooted on the illusion of group identity.

Add this to the reasons why critics tend to be less favorable to Albee plays than audiences. He does not aim for universal truth.

This knowledge alerts you to not take all this death and dying too seriously, and to enjoy the work of one of Chicago's real director pros, Ina Marlowe, the Producing Artistic Director of Organic Theater Company.

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