In an age when even the most banal of daily routine is deemed suitable fodder for one's tweets, blogs or Facebook status updates, it is hard to imagine a person still living who wishes to keep their secrets close to their chest.
Such is the case with Lilith Fisher (nee Lilka Kadison, brilliantly played by Marilyn Dodds Frank with jus the right touch of stubbornness and loneliness). Fisher is the 87 year-old, chief protagonist of Lookingglass Theatre Company's moving and wonderfully staged memory play "The Last Act of Lilka Kadison."
Lilith, a Jewish immigrant from Poland, wants to take her stories to the grave. One imagines she would tell you to go tweet yourself at the thought of posting such things on the internet.
Immobile due to a bruised hip, drugged up on pain killers and pestered by her overbearing Pakistani-born caregiver (warmly played by Usman Ally), Lilith is literally haunted by her previous life choices and mistakes when the ghost of a toy theater actor named Ben Ari Adler (the charming Chance Bone) appears, latterly forcing her to relive scenes from her youth.
Her younger self (the appealing Nora Fiffer) is initially innocent and pious, but as things take a turn for the worse in 1939 Poland, she grows up fast. Having her rebellious spirit awakened by Adler doesn't hurt either.
Over the course of the 90 minute play performed without an intermission, the loss of faith, the meaning of life and redemption are all deftly touched on. The show's overall message of the power of personal life stories is certainly not new to the stage. Nonetheless, when told well as it is here, such stories can make complete strangers laugh and come to tears.
The show is visually striking; particularly when the intricate set by Jackie and Rick Penrod transforms at various points into a larger-than-life version of Adler's Toy Theater (designed by Tracy Otwell).
"The Last Act of Lilka Kadison" is a fitting end to Tony Award winner Lookingglass' season.
"The Last Act of Lilka Kadison" runs through July 24 at the Lookingglass Water Tower Water Works, 821 N. Michigan. Tickets, $34-$62. Call (312) 337-0665; lookingglasstheatre.org.