From Splash Mazagines
Lifeline Theatre’s KidSeries Launches Captivating Premiere of #1 New York Times Bestseller
March 23, 2015
By Rachel Greene
Now through April 26, Lifeline Theatre in Rogers Park is presenting a captivating staging of “The One and Only Ivan,”a world premiere adaptation based on the bestselling book by Katherine Applegate about the true story of a remarkable gorilla who became a national symbol for animal welfare.
With the 99-seat theatre filled to capacity with youngsters, it was clear by their rapt, unwavering attention that the show’s themes of family, friendship, and what defines a home, really resonated and gave rise to quiet contemplation.
Based on a true-life story, the real-life Ivan was a silverback gorilla, exhibited in a Washington State shopping mall for more than half a century until public outrage moved him to better conditions at a zoo. Because the show is recommended for ages 5+, the production removed the darkest details from the original book and provides just the right level of emotional challenge for the younger set.
Adapted by Lifeline Theatre ensemble member James E. Grote, the newest show in Lifeline’s KidSeries line up is directed by Artistic Director Dorothy Milne. The show is based on the 2012 book published by HarperCollins which was a #1 New York Times bestseller and winner of the Newbery Medal. The show runs for a comfortably paced one hour with no intermission.
As for the plot, Ivan the gorilla is seen living out a long, lonely life as a sideshow attraction in a shopping mall. Upon meeting Ruby, a baby elephant captured in the wild and brought to his domain, Ivan evolves into the leader and protector he was always meant to be.
Similar to “Charlotte’s Web,” where Wilbur the pig famously and heartbreakingly delivers on a promise to the ailing Charlotte, “The One and Only Ivan,” focuses on Ivan’s valor in keeping a deathbed promise to a mother-figure elephant to baby Ruby. The audience is buoyed as Ivan leads the young Ruby (and himself) to a better place where nobody has to live out their lives as the one or the only of their kind, anymore.
For a multi-media, immersive experience, the show makes imaginative use of puppetry in the form of Bob the exuberant dog, as well as shadow puppetry used for poignant flashbacks of unfortunate first entanglements with mankind in the central African jungle that Ivan’s family called home.
The rich performances delivered by fine actors draw in the audience while making the adult theatre-goers completely forget they are watching a show staged with children in mind. Everyone leaves the production feeling like a fuller, richer human being conscious of our strengths and frailties, which is a nod to Lifeline’s mission of delivering big stories, up close, with passion.
From Chicago Stage Standard
“The One and Only Ivan” is a terrific show…thank you Ivan for becoming a new hero in our lives!
March 23, 2015
By Sally Jo Osborne
Lifeline Theatre KidSeries Presents “The One and Only Ivan”, a World Premiere Based on the #1 New York Times Bestseller and Newbery Medal-Winning Book by Katherine Applegate, Illustrated by Patricia Castelao.
I don’t think I was the only adult in the audience using tissues incessantly throughout this thought provoking show. The opening of “The One and Only Ivan” on Sunday afternoon at Lifeline Theatre in Rogers Park, brought together families to laugh, cry, and ask questions about this tale of a courageous gorilla name Ivan and his very good friends Bob, Stella, Ruby and Julia.
Scenic designer Joe Schermoly sets the stage for us in a simple yet effective storefront where Ivan the gorilla lives. The terrific puppet designer Joanna Iwanicka brings to life the characters that create this memorable story. Directed by Dorothy Milne and adapted by James E. Grote; their thoughtfulness and creativity shines through the darkness and into the light of a new day.
Ivan (Christian Castro) is a survivor and a hero. He doesn’t much think about his life back in the jungle because he has become accustomed to his glass cage and performing for his fans in the shopping mall. Bob (Rick Smith) the dog is a survivor being the only one of his litter that is still around after being thrown onto a busy highway by his owner. He is Ivan’s pal and nap buddy-Bob enjoys sleeping on Ivan’s tummy. He has a terrific sense of humor and loves Ivan very much. Stella (Allison Cain) the elephant is a performer in the mall too and she is very wise and mature. She got kicked out of the circus because she was injured and couldn’t perform anymore and so she is Ivan’s friend who also lives and performs at the mall. This is what they do and this is what they are used to doing.
One day, there is a new arrival name Ruby (Tiffany Oglesby) an adorable baby elephant. Ruby learns to perform in the show and loves Stella and Ivan very much. She looks up to Ivan a great deal and shares with her stories about her family. Ivan never thought about his family much because he was busy performing. That is until Ruby wants him to share stories with her and after a while he starts to remember what it was like with his sister and mom and dad when they lived in the jungle. Ruby and Ivan tell each other stories every day and become very close.
George (Tom Jansson) is Julia’s dad who cares for the animals and works in the mall. He is a kind man and does everything he can to make the animals feel comfortable. Julia is the daughter of George she is a young art student who visits Ivan all the time. Julia gave Ivan his first set of finger paints to create pictures and to express his thoughts. Julia and Ivan are very connected through their artistic interests. Ivan’s paintings become very popular among the visitors and Mack, the owner of the mall, sells them for a lot of money. People love to buy gorilla art especially created by the beloved Ivan.
It is Ivan’s mission to make a better life for Ruby the baby elephant and wait until you see how he does it!
This show is a story of the importance of love, loss, friendship, kindness and not so kind beings that exist out there in the world. It teaches a lesson to all theatre goers no matter what age that no matter where you are today there is still hope for tomorrow.
I find it fascinating that the story of Ivan the great silverback is based on real events. This adaptation created by Ms. Applegate allows us to enter the mind of Ivan and allows us to see into his world and experience the transition to become the hero that he was always meant to be. This is truly a heartwarming story and you should not miss it. My daughter and I purchased the book and are looking forward to reading it. I made a new friend this weekend and I found a new hero-Ivan, the great silverback gorilla, was absolutely one of a kind.
From the Chicago Reader
March 24, 2015
By Suzanne Scanlon
Ivan, a silverback gorilla, wants to be a hero, but that’s hard when you’re a washed-up attraction in a roadside circus. When he’s joined by baby elephant Ruby, he gets his chance, and with the help of a canine sidekick and a young girl (we’re not all bad), he works out a way for them to make it to “a good zoo” where “humans make amends.” James E. Grote’s adaptation of Katherine Applegate’s best-selling children’s book doesn’t shy from the sad—I wasn’t the only one in tears—though it can feel a little exposition heavy at times. But Dorothy Milne’s clean, simple staging for Lifeline Theatre’s KidSeries moves things along, as do Joanna Iwanicka’s puppets and the minimally costumed actors (especially Christian Castro as Ivan), who convey their animal natures through physicality alone.