First Look review: “A Permanent Image” at The Storefront Theater
A father’s death reunites a broken family and brings about one major decision.
By Taylor Tolbert
When: Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. from April 4-May 5
History: Obie Award-winning playwright Samuel D. Hunter brings A Permanent Image to LiveWire Chicago after its debut in Boise, Idaho in 2011. Another play of his, The Whale, is currently playing at Chicago’s Victory Gardens until May 5. Director Joshua Aaron Weinstein is the executive director of LiveWire Theater Chicago and previously directed A Bright New Boise, another of Hunter’s plays.
Basic storyline: Siblings Bo and Ally return to their childhood home for the first time in years for their father’s funeral, only to find that their mother has seemingly gone crazy and painted everything in the house white — the couch, the picture frames, the kitchen table, everything. As they try to find her reasoning behind this redecoration, an alcohol-fueled night brings the family’s deeper issues to the surface, and everything Bo and Ally think they know about their parents begins to unravel. In the end, brother and sister are faced with guilt, grief and a huge choice.
What to expect: A very honest, gut-wrenching story about a broken family, dark secrets and a decision that leaves a family reeling. Audiences get an intimate look at a mother trying to cope with her husband’s death, a brother and sister trying to reconnect after years without speaking, and a family of strangers searching for meaning. Relationships are contemplated, and the purpose of one insignificant life is questioned. It’s a heavy story worth watching.
What stood out: Mary Williamson as Ally, a daughter, sister, partner and human being just searching for so many answers. She plays the part brilliantly. She is funny, sarcastic and witty while also being sad, lonely and confused, all in two hours. Each of the three characters plays his or her part with so many human qualities that you find yourself relating to them despite the perplexing bigger story. Samuel D. Hunter presents a small family with a very big idea, and writes it authentically.
Final thoughts: While the story is thick, you’ll find yourself laughing and relating to the nuances of this dysfunctional family struggling with very human issues. You’ll leave the theater with much to think about, and hopefully the urge to call your family, just to say “hi.”