A compelling, timeless play by Joel Drake Johnson, directed flawlessly by Sandy Shinner. The two have paired on Johnson’s plays before, and it’s an effective union; the show exhibits consistently solid handling of nuanced themes that in other hands could descend into cliché. A mother and her grown children meet for lunch at a restaurant where social decorum barely contains growing tensions and, eventually, truly shocking revelations. Noteworthy acting all around, with a particularly stunning Meg Thalken as the daughter and moral center of the play who draws complete sympathy in contrast to her manipulative, engaging and guilt-inducing mother. The show strikes a perfect balance of drama and comedy, drawing laughs even in the darkest appearances of family secrets and old wounds. Perhaps more than anything else, “Four Places” provides a perfect example of the way that a universal dramatic formula can keep from going stale, and a counter-argument to Tolstoy’s assertion that “every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” (Monica Westin)
At the Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln, (773)871-3000. This production is now closed.