My Ántonia tells the story of a young immigrant girl in late 19th century Nebraska, through the eyes of her childhood friend Jim. The adult Jim narrates the story as he's returning home to visit, and his memories of his time on the frontier and the girl that he loves come to life on stage. We watch Jim and Ántonia grow from children playing on the prairie to young adults making their way in the world. Even though Jim and Ántonia's life paths diverge (he goes to Harvard and becomes a big city lawyer, she stays home and raises a family and a farm), they share a connection that cannot be broken by time or distance. Jim's nostalgia for the Nebraska prairie is inextricably intertwined with his memories of the girl that he knew and the boy that he was.
|Andrea San Miguel as Ántonia
(photo by Lauren B. Photography)
A big part of the success and emotional impact of this piece is the music by Roberta Carlson. The three-piece off-stage orchestra provides a constant soundtrack to the story, and so specifically brings you to that time and place, tinged with memory. The language of the play (which I assume was largely taken from the book) paints such a picture I that almost wanted to close my eyes to better see it, but then I would have missed the simple but effective images of waving grass or a plow against the sunset projected onto the backdrop. The writing, acting, direction by Michael Robins, music, and images combine to create a feeling of nostalgia for a past I never knew, but that as a descendant of pioneer immigrants is in my bones somehow.
This incarnation of My Ántonia continues for two more weekends at The Lab at The Lowry Building.* It's a beautiful piece of theater with all elements combining to bring to life this time and place and these characters. There's a reason this one keeps coming back. It'll make your heart ache in the best possible way. (Discount tickets available on Goldstar.)
*You can park in the Lowry ramp (entrance on Wabasha between 4th and 5th) and walk right from the ramp into the theater space.