What a great night to join Theatre 22’s family at West of Lenin for their offering of Lanford Wilson’s 5th of July. It happened to be Artistic Director Corey D. McDaniel’s birthday and we were so glad to be surrounded with a packed house of people who obviously loved the whole creative team on this Industry Night. As a maiden voyage for a new company, we offer our sincerest congratulations and thanks for a performance quite worthy of mention.
The great achievement of this production for me is the impeccable cohesion of all the parts. What seems to be a rooted in great direction and management is an immersion into the setting from the moment you arrive to the last bow. From the sets, through lighting and sound, to the fierce realities and humor played out on stage, this show was a full-meal-deal.
The first minutes walking into a theater are the best for me. They’re the moments where wonder and imagination finally have something to grasp on to, and T22 delivered. A marvelous porch and house façade brought out the brilliance of a Midwestern sunset in its rose hues and provided a character all its own to the story.
Overall it was the balance of comedy and drama so masterfully woven throughout this production that I enjoyed most. Volleys between extremely tense moments and light hearted pick-ups powerfully held the momentum of this story and made for a captivated and anxious audience. Expertly cast, the ensemble was a standout performance on its own. Mary Machala added a superb realism to the scene, while Meg McLynn performed striking pirouettes of bipolar mania, egged-on by a scheming husband, Tom Stewart, and balanced by the hilarious Zach Sanders. The main character had a daunting gamut of angles to emote and Chris Shea did so with charm, wit, and vulnerability.
The show hits hard on defenselessness and the opportunities that give us hope and meaning. These are themes that can be universally absorbed and help one understand more about themselves. Theatre 22 is performing 5th of July for three more nights, so get in quick. We certainly recommend that you attend.
This was also our first time attending a show at West of Lenin, and boy have we been missing out. This theater is enviably my perfect imagining of a black box. So enthused, go see anything at this space!