At times, the pace is slow in “Ordinary People” at Citadel Theatre in Lake Forest. But the exceptional acting of Matt Ronzani who is so natural as troubled teen Conrad Jarrett that he easily pulls the audience into the story and its message: children matter way more than a parent’s personal goals.
Directed by Scott Phelps, the production is based on Judith Guest’s 1976 novel that was filmed in Lake Forest and took several Academy Awards in 1980. Projections of Lake Forest scenes cross the backdrop are similar to opening shots of the movie. They are a reminder that even though a setting and lifestyle may appear idyllic, they don’t reflect the inner turmoil that often plagues teens faced with peer and parental pressures.
Even though Citadel has a small stage, scenic designer Yeaji Kim worked magic dividing it into school (lockers), home and psychiatrist’s office. Each element is crucial to the story about friendship, family problems and the need for psychiatric help because depression is real.
In this case, Conrad falls into a deep depression and tries to commit suicide following a boating accident when his older brother drowns. After a hospital stay, he has trouble returning to past activities which he doesn’t really want and interacting with peers he doesn’t feel are friends. His dad is understanding and caring but his mom is more interested in what other people think.
Jeff Gamlin is excellent as Conrad’s dad, Cal Jarret as is Chuck Quinn III as Dr. Berger. The challenge for Julie Stevens, a fine actress, is playing Beth Jarrett, an uncaring mom because no one in the audience is going to like Beth. Quinn’s son, Chuck IV was also good as Cal’s friend, Stillman.
Details: “Ordinary People” runs Sept. 18-Oct. 18, 2015 at Citadel Theatre, 300 S. Waukegan Road, Lake Forest, IL 60045 in a Lake Forest School District property south of Illinois Highway 60, Sept. 18-Oct. 18, 2015. For tickets and more information call 847-735-8554 and visit Citadel Theatre.