“Hickory Dickory” at Chicago Dramatists: Provocative, Timely Fantasy

Embedded inside everyone is a mortal clock. The timepiece ticks down the minutes until death.

For most, its existence near the heart goes unrealized. In rare cases, the mortal clock is a chronometer lodged in the brain. For those poor souls, the exact moment of death ticks away like a time bomb. Chicago Dramatists presents the world premiere of “Hickory Dickory.” Dale is 18. Her mother is 17. Both were born with mortal clocks in their heads. Jimmy and his father fix watches and clocks. When they tamper with fate, time runs out, stands still and speeds up. “Hickory Dickory” is a provocative fantasy lovingly tethered to family time.

Playwright Marisa Wegrzyn, a Wilmette native and winner of the 2009 Wendy Wasserstein Prize, imagines destiny being sealed up on an internal pocket watch. If the timepiece is removed and the time of death known, what would a love one do to stall for hours, days, years? Wegrzyn engages with humorous dialogue and unconventional characters. The intriguing concept is illustrated in a 3-act story of 3 generations. Under the direction of Russ Tutterow, the talented cast captivates, as actors play past and present versions of characters.

“Hickory Dickory” enthralls with grown-up make-believe. The concept of death isn’t overly morbid. It’s matter-of-fact. The notion of love isn’t overly saccharine. It’s sincerely sweet. The idea of mortal clocks isn’t overly unbelievable. It’s magical.

“Hickory Dickory” plays May 13 to June 12 at Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W. Chicago. Running time is 2 hours 30 minutes, including two intermissions. Tickets are $15-$32, and may be purchased at chicagodramatists.org.