after/math

An evening of six short works:

after/math
after/math

• Unnamed Time Play

• An Alternate Set of Procedures

• Fuckjoy

• Ransomed Soul

• Demons and Monsters

• Stunt

At The Side Project

The latest selection of short works from Side Project’s Cut to the Quick series, this one collectively titled after/math, is not for everyone. It is a collection of six works mostly under thirty minutes that are loosely held together by some common threads: they are all original; they are all quirky; and they are all about the workings of the mind. It is interesting stuff that will have aficionados of the shorter form all atwitter while leaving others wondering why they came to the theatre. Even theatergoers who do not enjoy evenings of short works will have to admit, however, that The Side Project is unequalled as a seminal house for young talent. If you like – as I do – edgy theatre on the experimental side this is a terrific program, but take a friend because you will want to talk about after/math with someone.

The best of the works is Chelsea Marcantel’s Stunt, directed by Gina LoPiccolo. It recounts the breakup of 20-something lovers Luke (Mike Henry) and Jenny (Kelly Minneci). Jenny blames the breakup on Luke’s having been “molested” by a female teacher, Clara (Lisa Stevens), for two years when he was 15. Luke insists that his “affair” has nothing to do with it and that he was a willing participant. Over the course of a half hour, give or take, of eavesdropping on conversations we learn the facts if not the meaning of the story. The three actors give flawless performances and the script provides a nuanced understanding of human sexuality and cultural mores that is surprisingly deep for such a short work.

For edginess, two way-out-there pieces written by Christopher Kelly really piqued my interest. Fuckjoy – the title refers to a pet name for one of the psychological games we humans play – is directed by Robert E. Lee, Jr. and features a convoluted dialogue between Dom (Josh Toups) and Ally (Shelly Rao). It is a cross between lugubrious mental sado-masochism and a lesson in how to plan for success in today’s world. Somewhat bawdy and a little hard to follow at times, I found Fuckjoy a very satisfying short show. Ransomed Soul, directed by Jamie DesRoscher, is also a little hard to follow at times, but eventually gets out a cautionary tale of repressed passion between wife Lily (Aileen May) and her brother-in-law Gorond (Dan Krall). There was real (sick) chemistry between these two halting and twisted lovers as they plotted the death of the husband/brother and awaited with fevered passion, the orgasmic relief it would provide.

Demons and Monsters, written by Corinne J. Kawecki and directed by Chelsea Marcantel, is a story about how a group of four young friends (Ashley Wint, Kevin Crispin, Jacob Ware, & Shelly Nixon) have remained friends by pretending that they haven’t all fucked each other. The show has an interesting repeating scene plot device that gradually lets us in on the secret and the young cast has a good ensemble feel. Two other shows that I found a bit less satisfying round out the bill. Unnamed Time Play, written by David Alan Moore and directed by David Bell, as well as An Alternate Set of Procedures, written by Carl Bergetz and directed by Allen Hope Sermonia, need some additional work on the scripts in this writer’s opinion. Time play hangs together pretty well thanks to a lively pace and generally strong performances from the actors, especially Michael Slefinger as a young boy awakening to his sexuality. Alternate Set also gets a standout effort from actor Cary Shoda as a suspect undergoing torture, but even his convincing work cannot salvage this poorly written and slow paced show.

Four out of six isn’t bad for an evening of short works. How you feel about that statement should determine whether or not you choose this ambitious presentation. I think it fair to say that everyone seeing such a program will like some of the plays better than others and that the exact lineup of individual favorites will vary considerably. You will not like every moment of the evening and if that is your criterion, don’t go. If you like seeing talented young actors cut their chops on engaging original material and don’t give a damn about the amenities, after/math is an extraordinary find.

RECOMMENDED

Randy Hardwick

At The Side Project,1439 W. Jarvis, Chicago, IL, www.thesideproject.net or 773-973-2150 tickets $15, Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 4:30 pm, running time is 2 hours, 50 minutes with intermission, through May 17, 2009