Chicago Theater Review: TWILIGHT BOWL (Goodman)

Post image for Chicago Theater Review: TWILIGHT BOWL (Goodman)

by Lawrence Bommer on February 20, 2019

in Theater-Chicago


It’s only women who perform, design, direct, write, and otherwise shape this Goodman Theatre world premiere. Rebecca Gilman’s Twilight Bowl represents a healthy change of insiders. Making up for lost chances and time, this coming-of-age, slice-of-life depicts six small-town, twentysomething friends across several seasons. Their getaway time is spent in a rural Wisconsin bowling alley that specializes in dimly lit games. Regina Garcia’s cozy bar teems with timeless neon signs and garish tournament trophies.

Smoothly and persuasively directed by Erica Weiss, Gilman’s rite of passage group portrait is very much a whole that’s greater than its parts. Here change is incremental, so there are many shifts staggered across the years. But the basic phenom behind this small/girl talk is friends letting go and holding on through, respectively, divisive attempts to prove false differences or muted acts of kindness.

Little things in Green County carry surprising weight in this bittersweet valedictory of a one-act: Reminiscences establish shared childhoods and the context for change — anecdotes about sticking fingers into light sockets, getting poison ivy, finding Easter eggs, buying dildos, taking uneaten birthday cake to the old peoples’ home, upgrading or discarding jobs.

Sure, these bowling buddies can get bitchy over beers and betray an unsisterly solidarity. Equally real is the female bonding: In quiet ways that carry equal weight, they prove good to and for each other, even as they’re pulled apart and thrown together. The silences here are silver if not gold.

Brielle (Mary Taylor) is the get-along bartender, instinctively nurturing and a good listener. Sharlene (Anne E. Thompson) is a religious extrovert, judgmental without always knowing it. Caught like her family in the opioid crisis, Jaycee (Heather Chrisler) has done jail time for drug sales, hardly a worse fate than living at home with an alcoholic mom and having a dad who is away doing his own hard time.

An interloping outsider, Maddy (Angela Morris) is a North Shore deb from Winnetka with self-esteem challenges and a bad history with boys and babies. Ambitious, athletic and a bit amoral, Sam (Becca Savoy) is hoping for a bowling scholarship (they must exist) and her success inevitably takes a toll on her classier competitors. Finally, Clarice (Hayley Burgess) is a follower who’s making the most of what’s often the least.

The post-high school perils of bewildering adulthood and identity crises all come through. Inquires arise, like whether luck or merit matters most and whether there’s ever a future in faking it. As these glancing or serious encounters suggest, each friend, dogged by doubts, has a different formula for success or just settling. “Is this all there is?” is a question that always threatens but never quite discourages.

These small-town survivors manage to make a case for not living with a lot of people. Gilman and Weiss hold an accurate if unpolished mirror up to this struggling sextet. Some audience members will surely see themselves reflected back. Others will simply enjoy their own defining differences from characters who never come too close for comfort. It’s 90 minutes without a gutter ball.

photos by Liz Lauren

Twilight Bowl
Goodman Theatre’s Owen Theatre, 170 North Dearborn
ends on March 10, 2019
for tickets, call 312.443.3800 or visit Goodman Theatre

for more shows, visit Theatre in Chicago

Leave a Comment