In 1915 the USS Eastland, a poorly designed, overloaded passenger vessel, flipped to its side and sank, killing 844 people. Lookingglass’ commemorative musical successfully employs this almost forgotten tragedy to tell poignant tales of longing, regret and bravery in the face of the unexpected.
Unhappily married Ilse (Monica West) struggles with adultery; young Bobbie ( Claire Wellin) chafes under her family’s control; rescue diver Reggie (Doug Hara) longs for recognition. All forget their foibles as they confront mortality. The piece could devolve into melodrama but doesn’t as Andrew White’s very human book creates realistically flawed characters that connect.
The multitalented ensemble capably handles the acting, vocal and musical chops necessary to the story. Director Amanda Dehnert’s evocative visuals and innovative use of Dan Ostling’s old-time revival tent set work in harmony with Andre Pluess and Ben Sussman’s gorgeous Americana score. It’s a beautifully wrought memorial to lives taken too soon. (Lisa Buscani)
At Lookingglass Theatre Company, 821 North Michigan, (312)337-0665. Through July 29.