There is a terrific and palpable ambitiousness running through every aspect of The Side Project’s latest stunner, “On My Parents’ One Hundredth Wedding Anniversary, ” not the least of which is the belief that audiences will remember its unfortunately clunky title. But nitpicking aside… Playwright Jesse Weaver’s theatrical juggernaut—admirably condensed into seventy satisfying minutes and imaginatively staged within the Studio Space’s cramped yet cozy confines by director Matt Hawkins—will be memorable for much more: a rich vernacular; rarely seen European expressionism; a poignant emotional intimacy, all beautifully brought to life by a cast that ultimately humanizes this memory play that could have all too easily degenerated into wan nostalgia and sentimentality. The naturalistic story uses a couple’s waltz down memory lane, she a sensitive and moody ballerina (Jessica Hudson) and he a philandering and pragmatic impresario (Michael E. Smith), through which to explore—through language, a sophisticated time-hopping structure and the juxtaposition of scenes depicting what is lived versus what is remembered—philosophical questions on the impossibility of relationships and the potential sacrifices made when artists and non-creative types love one another. The passions are big, the emotions raw and the acting wrenchingly honest. But it’s the absence of manipulation, despite the razzmatazz Meta theatrics and inherent memory-play sentimentalities, and a firm commitment to creative storytelling and not just theatrical tricks for their own sake, which strips away any pretense and allows “On My Parents’…” to bask in its transcendental theatrical glow. Director Matt Hawkins’ staging is endlessly creative, and his team of designers floods the tiny Studio Space with boundless whimsy and wonderment. (Fabrizio O. Almeida)
At the Side Project Studio Space, 1520 W. Jarvis, (773) 973-2150. This production is now closed.