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Five Flights at Immediate Theatre

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Immediate Theatre. By Adam Bock. Dir. Peter Cieply. With ensemble cast. 1hr 30mins; no intermission.

Adam Bock weaves his story’s threads together like twigs in a bird’s nest: They can seem haphazard and messy during the building, but they come together with a structural soundness that doesn’t reveal itself until every piece is in place. With that overworked bird-related simile out of the way, I can assure you that Five Flights, which also trades in avian metaphors, is more artful in their employment.

This 2004 piece, receiving its Chicago debut, centers on a trio of siblings unsure what to do with the crumbling aviary built by their recently deceased father to honor their long- dead mother. Ed (Nick Freed), our witty, rueful narrator, explains that his sister, Adele (Melonie Collmann), has a quirky best friend, Olivia (Emily Gann), who fancies herself a church planter. Olivia’s newly invented sect, the Church of the Fifth Day, finds the Word in the bird (the fifth day being when God created the creatures of the sky); she wants the aviary to be a place of worship. Ed and Adele’s unseen brother is represented by his wife, the strident Jane (Mildred Marie Langford), who wants to develop the parcel of land. Meanwhile, Ed’s protective apathetic eggshell is cracked by eager suitor Tom (Chris Carr).

This first production by Immediate Theatre, named for the 1980s Chicago troupe of which director Peter Cieply was a member, doesn’t always soar. Cieply and Gann overplay the gag of Olivia’s fluttery physicality, and Langford takes too long to find second and third notes in Jane. But lovely projection design by Michael Fernandez and a warm, truthful performance by Freed help illuminate Bock’s ruminations on faith, grief and the need for human connection. This cosmic, comic tale’s no featherweight.—Kris Vire

Time Out Chicago issue no. 352, November 24–30, 2011