Rose Valley Theatre Group, Chicago’s newest theater company, makes its debut with the first English language production of Sunday Evening, a play by Zachary Karabashliev, a Bulgarian playwright. You might worry that a new company would stumble a bit in its first staging but Rose Valley mounts a smoothly professional production with excellent direction, performances and all the tech pieces in place—sound, lighting, costumes. This is a highly credible and entertaining entry into our lively theater scene. Artistic director Zlatomir Moldovanski directs with a sure hand, guided by his stage experience in Bulgaria, at the Stratford Festival of Canada and many U.S. theaters.
Sunday Evening, which won the 2009 most respected theater award in Bulgaria, tells the stories of two families. Nick and Rose (Logan Hulick and Rachel Sepiashvili), an immigrant couple in 2005 Los Angeles, are trying to thread their way between his business success and ambition and her need for creative outlets beyond caring for their son, Sammy (who we never meet). Neighbor Stella (Maria Margaglione), had a successful film career in the past, but now is beset by family worries, including young twins, her college-age daughter Jenny (Melanie McNulty) and an absent husband.
As the play opens, Nick and Rose have been drinking wine for hours as Stella arrives during a rainstorm. She has other things to do and keeps trying to leave but Rose keeps imploring her to stay. Nick is bitterly accusing Rose of carrying on an affair but he has all the details wrong. We have glimpses into Stella’s life—New York auditions, talks with Jenny, her relationship with her husband. These scenes appear sporadically without being tied to time, while the scenes with Nick and Rose seem to mostly occur in real time over the course of an evening and the next morning.
The play’s title references that feeling of angst we get on Sunday evenings at the end of the weekend, facing another week of work. (I remember that feeling from my years of 60-hour workweeks in a firm of workaholics.) .
Stella describes it. “You know that fatigue you sometimes feel on a Sunday evening? And not from the week that’s gone but the one that’s coming. Exhausted by the thought that tomorrow is supposed to be a new beginning, but you are so… the same.”
Sunday Evening runs about two hours with one intermission. The lead actors are strong ingredients for Moldovanski’s production. Hulick is an energetic, irascible, thoroughly unlikable Nick—until the end. Margaglione’s Stella is poignant and believable as a former actor, now a mother desperate to save her daughter. Sepiashvili as Rose represents a woman trapped in conflicting dreams.
Chas Mathieu’s scenic design is a slickly modern space enhanced with original Bulgarian art (it will be for sale later). Lighting is by Scott Wagner and costumes by Julia Tony Stoyanova. Sam Clapp’s sound design features original music by Bulgarian rock band B.T.R. and Bulgarian-American hip-hop artist Pauna.
Sunday Evening by Rose Valley Theatre Group continues at the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., through February 9. Tickets are $30-$35 for performances Thursday-Sunday. Rose Valley is staging Sunday Evening with the support of producer Magura Bulgarian Cultural Center,