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TheoUbique rarely fails to deliver when it comes to entertainment, and this performance is no exception.   Set among the cornfields and the big skies, Bridges, perfectly captures the stifling effects of being, as Emily Bronte puts it, an oak in a plant pot.  Francesca, an Italian war bride, exchanges her home, language and culture for rural Iowa in 1965.  Apparently happy with her husband, Bud, and two children, Carolyn and Michael, Francesca’s world is abruptly uprooted when a chance encounter with Robert, a photographer, uncovers her dissatisfaction with domesticity.  

Director, Fred Anzevino, paces the action perfectly.  The seduction of each scene intensifies incrementally.  A settled world, in which, a foreigner tries to fit into expectations and norms of a society she is not at home with, gently suffocates Francesca’s passion for life.  The many facets of Francesca’s life as wife and mother, while demonstrated as comfortable and normal, are ill-fitting.  Kelli Harrington, as Francesca, manages to communicate a level of restraint that beautifully portrays her character’s unquiet soul.  It is to Harrington’s credit that she is able to bring to life the buried life of her character when Robert appears from out of nowhere.  Suddenly, the comfortable is no longer comforting.  

This is the second time that I have seen Tommy Thurston as the outsider/seducer.  Thurston, as Robert, is the perfect foil to Francesca’s husband, Bud.  Robert, the artist, well-travelled bohemian, exposes the limitations of Francesca’s potted life.  Casting Thurston and Harrington together only works because we believe Carl Herzog’s rendition of Bud as the stereotypical good hearted, well-meaning, farmer.  Bud is the salt of the earth but his life is limited to the world around him.  He can give Francesca a new life in a new country but he is blind to the confinement the rural life brings to her soul.  

While this is a story that echoes so many other stories, it has a particular mid-west charm about it that makes it different.  The understated music of the first half lends itself to a slower pace of life, a world where things happen slowly, and conveys, the mid-west experience.  By the second half, the sluggish mundanity is shuffled off when the unearth feelings of Francesca and Robert are passionately explored, unfettered by the claims of the regular life.  

Bridges of Madison County is a love story we can all relate to.  Its story is deeply satisfying, and this production will leave you feeling the joy and sadness of being human.  

THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY, at Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre, 721 Howard St., Evanston (1/2 mile west of Clark St. - on the Evanston side of Howard Street).
Price: $39-$54
Show Type: Musical
Box Office: 773-347-1109
Running Time: 2hrs, 30mins; one intermission
Thru 4-21
www.theo-u.com

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