“Failure: a Love Story” brings ’20s Chicago to life


Darrell Hoemann

Chorus (Christopher Khoshaba) and Mortimer Mortimer (Mark Tyler Miller) during a rehearsal of ‘Failure: A Love Story’ in the Studio Theatre at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in Urbana on Tuesday.

By Brooke Eberle, Staff writer

For graduate student Jessica Kadish, this is more than just a part. Kadish’s character, Jenny June, has become a piece of her.

The play “Failure: a Love Story” is a 1920s romantic comedy set in Chicago that features three sisters who fall in love with the same man. Phillip Dawkins wrote the play and J.W. Morrissette directed. The play will run at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts from Thursday to Feb. 12.

In Kadish’s favorite scene, her character is convinced by her brother-in-law to become the first woman to swim across Lake Michigan.

“They’re both very depressed at that point in the play, and the act of pursuing a seemingly impossible goal together helps pull them out of their inaction,” Kadish said. “I’ve been there in my own life, so it means a lot to be able to go there onstage.”

“Failure: a Love Story” has a cast of 14 actors and a creative team of over 50 people. The team has been rehearsing since before Thanksgiving break. They rehearse for about four hours a day, six days a week.

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“The playwright, Phillip Dawkins, has created an exciting world of happiness and struggle,” J.W. Morrisette, director of the play and assistant head for academic programs for the theater department, wrote in an email.

“He is an incredibly gifted writer and his work provides audiences with a marvelous mixture of fantasy, comedy and pathos, as well as incredibly strong material for training theater artists.”

Morrisette said he is also very excited that the first three of their eight total shows are already sold out.

“It is a great feeling to see shows selling out, but I also worry people think that means they can’t get tickets. That isn’t true, go to box office. There are still lots of chances to see the show,” Morrisette said.

Mark Tyler Miller, graduate student in FAA, will play Mortimer Mortimer in the show. He said he is excited about the full house on the first three nights.

“It’s always nice as an actor to know that you’re going to have a good crowd to share a story with,” Miller said. “I know that people will love this show, as the script is fantastic and the cast is a bunch of fun. This show is funny and heartbreaking and moving all at the same time.”

In addition to the show, there is going to be a Talkback on Feb. 9, during which the cast members and audience will watch a recording of the play and then get feedback.

Kadish said she’s very excited to perform and see all of the cast’s hard work come together on stage. She said the play is relatable for anyone who has ever loved or lost someone.

“The act of all sitting in a room together to watch a story unfold with real people in real time, and then staying to talk about it together afterward, means so much in our age of tiny screens and isolation,” Kadish said.

Kadish also said she thinks the play will have a special appeal to those from the Chicago area. Since the entire play is set in 1920s downtown Chicago, audience members can expect to see real landmarks that define the city — like the Chicago River and the Ohio Street Beach.

“It will open your heart to loving and living in the present. It makes you appreciate what you have. It’s a smart, funny, lovely piece of writing with a fantastic, upbeat, malleable cast,” Miller said.

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