By Maddy Bourque
Playing at: Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont, through Dec. 7. www.TheaterWit.org
History: Griffin Theatre Company’s Titanic introduces an intimate, scaled-down production of the original 1997 Broadway musical. In 2012, original cast member Don Stephenson developed a chamber play of both new and existing material, which is currently being performed by a 20-member cast in Chicago.
Basic storyline: The story recounts the historic and fateful 1912 journey of the Titanic through the varied accounts of first-, second-, and third-class passengers. With particular emphasis on social class, Titanic touches closely on ideas of injustice, romance, status quo and the American Dream.
While the adaptation is historically accurate and true to the original Broadway play, it includes contemporary jokes and commentary to relieve the audience from its inevitably tragic end. This creates an environment that is relatable while still offering a transformative, historic experience. The early 20th century context, though visibly obvious at times, is essential to this adaptation and takes the place of the expected Jack and Rose romance in a refreshingly original way.
What stood out: The 20-member cast allows each actor to reveal his or her talents through a multitude of characters on stage. This delivery is impressive in its believability, and it also allows for a more intimate actor-to-audience relationship.
Additionally, the sinking of the ship elicits an emotional response from the audience without relying on special effects or overplayed acting; creative stage use and powerful orchestrations create an ambiance that is somber, engaging and authentic.
Final thoughts: The Titanic is a story that has been told and retold through history, theater, literature and film, but the Griffin Theatre Company manages an impressively innovative adaptation. The simple delivery of the plot allows for the story’s more poignant elements to be emphasized, offering an insightful commentary on the significance of class, death and relationships.