|1/10/2018 1:45:00 PM|
Spot On Co-founders Dan Noonan And Sarah Whitney Hit the Right Note With 'Blue Over You'
By Heidi RandhavaSpot On Company’s “Blue Over You (A Mysterious One-Man Love Story with Musical Bits)” opened to a full house on Jan. 5 at Northminster Presbyterian Church, 2515 Central Park Ave., and will run through Jan. 28. Written by Dan Noonan and directed by Sarah Whitney, who co-founded Spot On Company with “Blue Over You” in mind, the production stars Chicago Equity actor and theater favorite Michael Joseph Mitchell.
Ms. Whitney, who was born and raised in Evanston and Mr. Noonan, who grew up in Skokie, met 25 years ago while working in the Goodman Theatre box office. Years later, they began collaborating as a writer director duo on plays including “Out Among the Dragons,” produced in 2005 by After Midnight in Evanston, and “Set Up,” produced in 2013 by TheatreBAM Chicago.
Although Mr. Noonan intended to work as an actor after receiving a B.A. in theater and political science from Boston College, health issues limited the amount of acting he could do. Born with severe hemophilia, he has arthritis-like symptoms and is HIV-positive from a blood transfusion when he was 13 years old. His career as a playwright was sparked by favorable responses to his writing from teachers who encouraged him to pursue writing as an alternative to acting.
“I started writing and found that I like it even more than acting,” Mr. Noonan said in a Dec. 26 interview with the RoundTable. His first script, for a comedy called “Being in Touch,” won the Agnes Nixon Playwriting Award at Northwestern University, where he received a Master’s degree in theater.
“The more I did with playwriting, the more I enjoyed it. It’s really become my passion,” said Mr. Noonan, who for many years wrote in the evenings and on weekends while working full-time at the Chicago Department of Public Health.
“Blue Over You” was a work in progress for eight years prior to its production. An early public reading of the play received a standing ovation at the Dayton Playhouse Futurefest. It was a semifinalist at the Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, received an Honorable Mention in the New Works of Merit Playwriting Competition 2015 in New York City, and was a finalist in the Three Cat Productions Chicago New Works Festival.
When Mr. Noonan and Ms. Whitney shopped the play around to theaters, however, they did not get any bites. “A one-man show did not speak to their acting ensembles the way we would have hoped. So Sarah and I kind of pinky-swore to each other that we would produce this play, and we formed Spot On Company,” said Mr. Noonan.
The play is a comedy drama that seeks to answer the question, “Where’s Mitzi?” The full title (including parentheses) discloses that the play is also a mystery and a love story.
It has been two days since Mitzi’s sudden departure on a cold night in January from the Evanston bungalow she has long shared with her husband Francis, a high school drama teacher who reveals early on that he comes from “a long line of self-talkers.”
Within minutes, the audience is immersed in Francis’s efforts to determine if Mitzi left because of his childish behavior, if she ran off with the janitor with whom she flirts, or if there is a darker explanation for her absence. When Francis says, “She’s my wife, my life, my best friend,” we know it to be true. Francis’s song-and-dance approach to life ultimately unveils the mystery of his wife’s disappearance, drawing both tears and laughter along the way. Above all, “Blue Over You” is a story about the human heart, inspiring the audience to view others with greater compassion and understanding.
Mr. Mitchell could not have been a better fit for the well-developed character of Francis. The actor was part of the process from the beginning, Mr. Noonan said, adding, “He suggested songs for the musical bits and also did readings of the play.” Mr. Mitchell most recently appeared as Zoltan Karpathy in the Lyric Opera production of “My Fair Lady.”
Ms. Whitney most recently directed Will Eno’s “Title and Deed” for Midnight Company. Last year, she directed “The Two-Character Play” for the first Tennessee Williams Festival in St. Louis, where she currently resides. As Associate Director for Midnight Company, she has directed many plays. One of her favorite theater experiences was directing her mother, Ann Whitney, in “The Trip to Bountiful.”
Shake off winter’s chill and attend a performance of “Blue Over You.” The play runs Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. through Jan. 28. Tickets are available at www.BlueOverYou.com.
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