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James Eldrenkamp
James Eldrenkamp
Colin Fewell
Colin Henry Fewell
Eric Ryan Swanson
Eric Ryan Swanson
Gary Murphy
Gary Murphy

Adrift by David Alex
"Adrift will sail directly into your heart"
—Chicago Critic

Directed by Maggie Speer

July 26th through August 26th, 2012
at the Greenhouse Theater Center Upstairs Studio
2257 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago

Produced in association with Azusa Productions

"this is a play that should be seen, not just by fathers and sons, but mothers and daughters as well"
—Around the Town Chicago

"When a play can hit home and truly make you look at your own life, it's a winner. You can't ask for anything more."

"The thematic concerns and symbolism come through cleanly in director Maggie Speer's staging..."
—Chicago Tribune

"...earnest acting and intriguing scenic and sound design..."
—Chicago Reader

"Gary Murphy and Eric Ryan Swanson burn up the stage, radiating frustration and hurt with subtle mastery."
—Time Out Chicago

"Mr. Alex can turn a phrase or two."
—Centerstage Chicago

"The play features a really great cast of actors...The feature of the set I love, love, loved the most was the effect of the painted acquatic floor, seemingly spinning the characters on stage into the abyss. An intense red projector light signals Jack's traumatic relapses. The production team...succeed in creating an eerie, surreal aquatic atmosphere without distracting from the message." —Cheeky Chicago

"In the present, Jack looms over Isaac's shoulder as he goes through challenging parts of his days, whispering advice and jeering at him, showing the constant presence of his influence. It's just one example of director Maggie Speer's excellent blocking. When Isaac addresses the audience, which becomes his unruly class, paper airplanes whiz out from the aisles. The most memorable aspect of the show may be the set, designed by Dennis Mae, which provides layers of glass covered with objects that represent the characters shifting priorities: seashells and geometry tools; the old Navy posters of Jack's past and the model boats that are his new hobby; and the golf clubs that represent Judd's greatest passion. It's all perfectly complimented by Jake Bray's lighting design, which casts a mellow blue hue over the scene, then changes to a violent red to coincide with episodes of Jack's Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-induced rage and terror." —Stage and Cinema

"David Alex is a well known local Chicago theatre enthusiast and accomplished playwright who has written several excellent works over the years. His latest, Adrift, may be his finest to date. It is both an 'idea play' and a family drama; it uses nautical terms as well as theoretical mathematical references all of which blend nicely due to tight direction by Maggie Speer.

"Adrift nicely moves back and forth in time allowing us to see, from Isaac's memory of growing up with his father and the haunting remembrance of dad's battle with post traumatic stress disorder. We see Issac role changing as he moves from devoted admiring son to a nurturing son bent on helping his father deal with his war related disorder. Alex's play structure says much and covers the two family story in a compact, often humorous and poignant one act that has a fresh perspective on how sons learn to appreciate their fathers and how fathers eventually learn to listen to their sons..

"James Eldrenkamp intensely play the stressed naval commander and Colin Henry Fewell anchors the show as he presents Issac as a unique genius with quirky tendencies. These two gave outstanding performances. For a fresh look at father-son relations." Adrift will sail directly into your heart. —Chicago Critic

"Choices! We are all faced with difficult choices as we travel through life, and as we think back, we see that those we made may have changed the course of our lives. In David Alex's, somewhat autobiographical Adrift, now on stage at The Greenhouse Theater Center Upstairs Studio, we find that Isaac Abbas (a powerful performance by Colin Henry Fewell) a math teacher, who feels that he is the total devoted son searches for answers on "how can I forgive myself for the choice I made” question. The play, a short 80 some minutes captures the pure essence of Isaac as a child, a teen and an adult teacher as he enters a new school. His father, Jack (deftly handled by James Eldrenkamp, he of the raspy voiced macho man) a naval officer, who suffered from post-traumatic stress after being booted out of the Navy, weighs heavily on his mind.

"Directed by Maggie Speer with just the right touches for us to feel the relationships between fathers and sons, the play moves at a nice pace on a marvelous set by Dennis Mae, allowing the action to move from school, to Isaac's home and to the home of the other father and son who also undergo a keen change in their relationship. Judd Benz (Gary Murphy) is the principal at the school where Isaac has been employed and his son Tom ( Eric Ryan Swanson brings a great deal of strength to this teen who is confused about his relationship as well) is his student.

"As we watch and listen to these two sets of fathers and sons, we begin to search in our own minds our own relationships with our own father or son or in many cases, both.

"This is a play that should be seen, not just by fathers and sons, but mothers and daughters as well. Despite Isaac's own situation, he is able to draw out Tom and his father and see them reconcile their differences, only to find that his life becomes affected by doing so." —Around the Town Chicago

"Polarity Ensemble Theatre presented Adrift Friday evening to a packed audience at the Greenhouse Theater in Lincoln Park. This four person play, written by David Alex, focused on the ever-challenging father-son relationship and its components. Maggie Speer, the director, deftly guided this all male cast to portray a wide variety of self-imposed pressures that parents and children feel, but don't always communicate or even recognize.

"Life is all about the choices we make and then hope we won't regret what we have done. Unfortunately, we aren't provided a crystal ball as the lead characters Isaac Abbas and his father, Jack a high ranking Naval Officer, demonstrated. We watched Isaac at many stages of his life interacting with his highly disciplined father. Isaac admired his father, and like most children, he looked for his father's approval and ultimately his pride. Isaac's father was with him subconsciously every step of the way. From his interview with the principal of a school for a math teaching job and then to teaching high school kids. Isaac had a lot to learn and relied heavily on what his father had taught him.

"Communication between a father and son can be a tricky and sometimes non-existent aspect in a relationship. Both sets of fathers and sons on the stage portrayed this all the while seeing how each one wanted nothing more than to be close to and understand the other. Isaac attempted to impart his wisdom of 20-something years on to the young, but misunderstood high school student and son of the principal. Truly, wisdom was there as he expressed that a “parent and child [are] raising each other on a journey.” So true. There is no handbook for a parent or a child to follow. But those choices we made on this journey of life directly impacted the future.

"As I watched this smartly written and intuitive play, I couldn't help but relate closely with the characters even though I am neither a father nor a son. I am, however, a parent and a child. I lost my father, Jack, a WWII Army Air Corp hero, in January. I didn't know he was a hero until we sorted through his belongings. It was just something my dad never talked about with me. However, my dad and I were close, utilizing hiking and fishing as our medium of communication; similar to the play's characters' use of golf. I have regrets looking back on our relationship and those choices I have made will haunt me. I can only hope that maybe I can impart my wisdom on my children so that they have fewer regrets.

"Adrift is a wonderful and realistic story of relationships, communication, and parenting. Casting was perfect and the acting was superb as the story peeled away layer by layer each character's personality and feelings. This 90 minute production pounded home the importance of choices and the realization that we make the decisions we do based on the circumstances at hand. When a play can hit home and truly make you look at your own life, it's a winner. You can't ask for anything more." —reelhonestreviews

Ticket Info

ADRIFT by David Alex was performed at the Greenhouse Theater Center Upstairs Studio, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. Preview: Thursday, July 26 at 7:30 pm. Opening Night: Friday, July 27 at 7:30 pm through Sunday, August 26, 2012. Curtain times Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2:30 pm. Tickets (including preview) were $20. $12 discount tickets were available for students, seniors & industry.

Special Event August 16th

A post show discussion regarding Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with Dr. John Mundt, a staff psychologist at Chicago’s Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, was held after the 7:30 pm Thursday, August 16th performance. Dr. Mundt focused on a range of issues and problems impacting returning veterans.

Adrift by David Alex
Production Staff

Maggie Speer, Director
Richard Engling and Maggie Speer, Producers
Zoe Claster, Stage Manager
Dennis Mae, Set Designer
Jenna Moran, Sound Designer
Staci Weigum, Costume Designer
Jake Bray, Lighting Designer
David Rosenberg, Public Relations
Bridget Shultz, Graphic Design
Elena Ramon, Scenic Artist
Stephen Bromfield, Syed Hasnain, Paul Davios, Carpenters

Playwright David Alex has received three Grant Awards from the Illinois Arts Council in Recognition in Playwriting (including Adrift) and a Grant from the Pilgrim Foundation. His full-length works include By the Rivers of Babylon, Corpus Delicti, Endangered, Ends, Eroica, Heart of the Sufferer, Onto Infinity, The Humble Constant, The Lutwidge Canvass, The Second-Oldest Profession and The Tinker Wins, in addition to 17 one-act plays. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild and former Secretary of the Chicago Alliance for Playwrights and the Illinois Theatre Association.

Maggie Speer is Managing Director of Polarity Ensemble Theatre and Artistic Director of Azusa Productions, where she previously produced David Alex's Onto Infinity and most recently directed Michael Alessandro's adaptation of Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. Other Azusa directing credits include Sam Shepard's Chicago and Icarus's Mother (co-director), Fool For Love, Killer's Head, La Turista, The Unseen Hand (co-director), A Lie Of The Mind (co-director), Jesse & The Bandit Queen (co-director) and both the original and the reprise of Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs (co-director). At Polarity Ensemble Theatre she recently directed David Hammond's adaptation of Henry Fielding's Tom Jones and Richard Engling's play Absolution as part of Polarity's 2011 Dionysos Cup Festival. She also served as Artistic Director of Waukegan's Bowen Park Theatre, where, in addition to presenting great classics of the theatre, she proudly brought new work of Chicago playwrights to the North Shore. For ten years, Maggie taught theatre classes at Lake Forest College where her favorite class remains "Shakespeare to Tarantino: why violence endures and flourishes in theatre, film and literature."

Adrift was featured and developed in Polarity Ensemble Theatre's 2008 Dionysos Cup Festival of New Plays.

Adrift by David Alex
Colin Henry Fewell and James Eldrenkamp
Photo Credit: Johnny Knight

Polarity Ensemble Theatre

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