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See This: Graceland At Profiles Theatre

By Suzy Evans in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 18, 2009 7:20PM

Cemeteries kind of creep us out, and when we heard that the play Graceland takes place at the cemetery under the same name, we thought we were in for one creepy, site-specific experience. Turns out the play isn’t site-specific or creepy, but Profiles Theatre’s world premiere of Ellen Fairey’s play is one of the most exciting pieces of theater we’ve seen this year.

Set the weekend of the Chicago Air and Water show (If you’re missing those low-flying, noisy planes already, this show is a good excuse to relive the noise), Graceland opens with a brother and sister after their father’s funeral. Through chance encounters, two families connect, and what began as a weekend of mourning becomes an exploration of self, love and self-love. Fairey’s concept does not break the theatrical mold, and there is nothing highly experimental about this production. However, her tightly-written dialogue and exacted dramatic flow kept us on the edge of our seat throughout the performance.

The actors also did a phenomenal job putting this great script into action. The stand out performance of the night came from high school student Vic Kuligioski. He plays the role of Miles, a young boy who works at Graceland Cemetery. Almost all of his scenes are with the show’s token Equity actor Cheryl Graeff, and Kuligioski definitely kept up, and even exceeded, Graeff in some scenes. Let’s hope he sticks around Chicago for a while.

Even though it takes place the weekend of the Air and Water show, the play doesn’t have much to do with this event; however Mikhail Fiskel’s impeccable sound design makes it feel like the planes are flying through intimate theater space. From crackling sounds of a cell phone’s speaker to the Doppler effect of plane engines overhead, Fiskel’s design stands out as one of the highlights of this production. The set design was not as precise, considering the limited space, and while we had trouble dealing with the same set for both the living room and cemetery, it didn’t take away too much from the production.

Overall, this is certainly the play to see before the close of the 2008-2009 theater season. It's witty, sad, touching, disturbing and you’ll definitely leave the theater a little bit wiser.

Graceland has been extended through Sept. 13 at Profiles Theatre. Performances are on Thursday and Friday at 8 pm, Sat at 5 pm and 8 pm, and Sunday at 7 pm. Ticket prices range $30-$35.