“The One and Only Ivan” review by Carole Moore


Lifeline always gives the children in the audience a smaller program with space for autographs. The entire cast is always available for autographs after the performance. If she didn’t like a character, Molly won’t get his/her autograph, and she absolutely refuses to get any autographs at all if she doesn’t like the play. When she lined up for autographs – and actually talked to the actors – I knew she really liked “The One and Only Ivan”.

Ivan (Christian Castro), a silver back gorilla, is an attraction at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. He doesn’t remember much of his early life, so he’s fairly content with his small domain, especially since Julia (Tiffany Oglesby) brought him finger paints. His friend, Stella (Allison Cain), an elephant who worked in a circus until she hurt her foot, still remembers – and misses – her life before.

One day, a stray puppy got into Ivan’s domain and climbed up onto his stomach to sleep. Bob (Rick Smith) is kind of a smart aleck so, of course, the kids loved him! Bob likes being a stray and doesn’t actually want to live with a family.

One day Mack (Smith) bought a baby elephant named Ruby (Oglesby). Ruby, who was captured in the wild is scared, unhappy and missing her mother and her sisters, aunts and cousins. ‘Aunt’ Stella protects and teaches Ruby until her bad foot gets infected. Mack’s business is down, so he refuses to call the vet until it’s too late. As she’s dying, Stella asks Ivan to protect Ruby.

As Ivan, Christian Castor spent the entire hour in a gorilla-like crouch, jumping around his ‘domain’. That’s dedication! The kids laughed every time Bob, a small stuffed dog at the end of a long stick, bounced on stage. Cain and Oglesby wore gray clothing while manipulating Paper Mache constructs with moveable trunks.
Interestingly enough, “The One and Only Ivan” was inspired by the true story of Ivan, a gorilla who lived in a similar situation for 27 years before being adopted by Zoo Atlanta.

“The One and Only Ivan” runs through April 26th at Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood Ave., in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood. Recommended for children ages five and up (children under two not permitted). Performances are Saturdays and Sundays at 11:00 am and 1:00 pm (no performance Easter Sunday, April 6th). Running time is 1 hour, no intermission.

Tickets are $15. Metered street parking is available; free on Sundays. Free parking, with shuttle service to the theater, is available in Lifeline’s remote lot. FYI (773) 761-4477 or www.lifelinetheatre.com

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicaago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “The One and Only Ivan”