Our Lady of the Underpass

Play inspired by real-life event

It was an event that captured the attention of the entire country. An image that many thought was the Virgin Mary -- and others, a salt stain -- appeared under the Fullerton Avenue overpass, prompting hundreds of people to visit the shrine for days on end.

The event provides the inspiration for Teatro Vista's latest production, Our Lady of the Underpass. The play is currently on-stage at the Victory Gardens Greenhouse through March 29.

The play, written by Tanya Saracho, is a story about men and women from all walks of life who are brought together through the real-life event.

It's been revised since its original reading at the Goodman Theatre in 2006, and is told through a series of monologues given by Saracho's characters, who were inspired by interviews with actual visitors to the roadside attraction.

Saracho gives the audience a sense of the "best of" of these conversations, presenting us with characters so weird and wonderful that you can't help but imagine them to be real.

The play also captures the drama of the image itself, which was defaced, restored, and the subject of much discussion. Will Mayor Daley, "too cheap to fix the roads," go out of his way to take it down? Is it a modern day miracle? Is that gunk on the wall really just a "homeless man's pee?"

The play features an ensemble of some of Chicago's finest actors, and is directed by Sandra Marquez. The production flies by at 90 minutes and throws in a ton of laughs and manages to move you without preaching or taking a self-righteous stand on the topic of religion.

Laura Lodewyck is a member of the NBC Chicago Street Team blog and Nude Hippo TV.

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