Review: 'Tinker to Evers to Chance' at Merrimack Repertory Theatre
Tinker to Evers to Chance by Mat Smart and directed by Sean Daniels is a captivating story about love, loss and baseball, but most of all hope. The hope felt by a diehard Cubs fan in 2003 when she believes that this will be the year the baseball team will finally make it to the World Series and win for the first time since 1908. The hope felt by a daughter wishing for her mother to come home. The hope of a caretaker praying that he didn’t cross the line and longing to make things right. While this play explored a variety of emotions, time periods and connected characters, the most prominent piece that tied it all together was hope.
In the fall of 2003, Lauren, played by Emily Kitchens, travels to her mother’s home in Chicago from her home in New York City so the two of them can attend a pivotal playoff game of their beloved Chicago Cubs. She arrives at the apartment, with a view of Wrigley field, to find not her mother, but her mother’s personal care assistant RJ, played by James Craven. They soon discover Nessa, Lauren’s mother, has disappeared without a trace and they have no idea why she left or where she went. The only clues they find are those in a play she has written about Johnny Evers, the Cubs’ second baseman. Over the next six months Lauren forms a bond with RJ keeping him in the loop on discoveries she makes in regards to her mother’s disappearance. Even when it’s clear to them that Nessa is never coming home, Lauren never gives up hope that her mother will one day return to her.
The cast of two portray multiple characters throughout the play including Nessa (Lauren’s mother), Florence (Nessa’s Grandmother), Johnny Evers, and Mrs. Spoor (Johnny Evers’ Nurse). Using various costume pieces the two actors transform to portray the other characters over a 97-year time span. Both Kitchens and Craven are dynamic actors who bring life in colorful, emotional, and at times amusing ways to the variety of characters they play. One of my favorites was Craven’s dainty portrayal of Florence as she meets Johnny Evers in 1906 while working in a drugstore on the South Side of Chicago. Donned in a white apron his mannerisms and vocals wonderfully portrayed the young Florence who Evers gave his baseball jersey to. Evers, in this scene, was played by Kitchens who later portrayed him again after his stroke. Kitchens’ portrayal of Evers in both scenes was interesting to watch, but my favorite character she portrayed was Nessa in a scene where she meets Evers (played here by Craven) for the first time and he signs the jersey he had given to her grandmother many years earlier. This scene was poignant and very well done by both actors.
This play draws the audience in from the beginning and is able to keep their attention throughout. One noteworthy sequence occurred when neither actor was on stage and all the audience heard for a few minutes was an audio recording of the 2003 NLCS Game 6: the Cubs against the Marlins. It was a well done addition to the play that brought to life the baseball theme and how important it and this particular game was in the lives of Lauren and Nessa.
While this play was not my favorite of MRT’s season, its’ message of hope and never giving up on someone or something, is one that has stayed with me.
Tinker to Evers to Chance plays at Merrimack Repertory Theatre (Lowell, MA) until March 6th with performances Wednesdays through Sundays. Tickets range from $60- $23 and can be purchased online at www.mrt.org or by calling 978-654-4678.
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