REVIEWSREVIEWS BYTheatre ReviewsTom Williams

Allotment Annie

By Mark Masonallotment annie at infusion theatre

Directed by Bridgette Harney

produced by InFusion Theatre Company

At Strawdog Theatre, Chicago

In a world premiere

Convoluted and inaccurate World War II drama fizzles on all counts

If you’re going to produce a play about an era such as World War II, best you do your homework. That surly wasn’t the case with Mark Mason’s world premiere Allotment Annie. Among the many incorrect details were the glaring errors in the Army uniforms:  rank Insignias were place in the wrong place; and pilots always had a silver pilot’s wings above their ribbons. The enlisted man (here a corporal) always had his chevrons sown on both sleeves, etc. etc. If costume designer Rachel Sypriewski would only Google “Army Air Force” and “Army paratrooper uniforms from WWII,” maybe she’d get the look correct. If your going for realism, then the devil is in the details.

Allotment Annie - InFusion Theatre Company, January 2013

But, the real problem with Allotment Annie is in the story. Utilizing a too-fast-talking female announcer (here an American and, at times, a Nazi) and a sprinkling of lame swing dancing (I could almost hear the actors counting their steps) with off-key singing, Allotment Annie tried too hard to convey the atmosphere of WWII. Set in a military canteen in Poughkeepsie, New York , we meet Fran (Kate Black-Spence) and her bartender partner Virginia (Amy Rapp) who run a watering hole for GI’s. Virginia loves to have sex and marry soldiers – she has married and lost (killed in combat)  six husbands in the two and a half years of WWII (it is May, 1944 here). She seduces Vance (Beau Forbes), a paratrooper into her bed. She marries him once she get notice of losing her current hubby. Amazing and preposterous!

Allotment Annie - InFusion Theatre Company, January 2013

But when Fran is smitten by Lt. Joe Archibald (Carl Lindberg), they talk about a scheme to defraud the US government.  According to the press notes, that’s what the play is about:  “1944: In wartime, sometimes you have to kill to keep love alive. What starts as a harebrained war profiteering scheme by a dashing Army Air Force pilot and a beautiful bartender turns into sex, betrayal and murder, and bodies start to fall in more ways than one during the most violent year of the twentieth century.”

The plot is only hinted at but we never see the scheme unfold. Instead, we see Fran turn psychopath as she killed Joe on their wedding night. In act two, Fran tells Virginia about her killing her war injured sister. This play turns from a song-and-dance infused sexual ramp to gain allotment checks to a murdering psycho seems to come out of nowhere.

I’m not sure why playwright Mark Mason wanted to write several plays in one play? This story is an unfocused convoluted mess. Add the poor acting and mumbling lack of articulation by Kate Black-Spence and Amy Rapp together with the wildly fast-talking announcer Mallory Nees and Allotment Annie becomes a tedious affair. Mason needs to rethink and refocus his play as he asks himself what the play is really about. Is it about a murderous psychopath or two scheming  gals bent on getting  government cash from their GI husbands? And, if you want to infuse your show with swing tunes and dance, then cast singers and dancers and produce a light musical. As presented, Allotment Annie tries and fails to be a worthy story – it begs the question: what is it about?  Maybe if the production values and acting were better, the work would be tolerable but as now presented, it isn’t worth seeing.

Not Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: January 5, 2013

For more info checkout the Allotment Annie page at

At Strawdog Theatre, 3829 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL, call 773-528-9696, tickets 425, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, rinning time is 2 hours, 15 minutes with intermission, through February 3, 2013


4 thoughts on “Allotment Annie

  • The Critics Critic

    Go see this show! I saw this play last week. There were so many parts of it I loved! As an apprentice actor (an older one who started late) I can’t imagine anyone in the audience not seeing some of the delicate and tender moments of this play. It’s heartbreaking as well as….surprising. I thought the show was beautifully cast and felt and saw chemestry on stage that every actor dreams of….In fact…I will be going again. Below are a few of my comments about this Critic. I have no connection with the theater company, it’s actors or the theater where played.

    Dear Tom,

    I disagree with you so much on your review of this play and given that your pen is one of the meanest I have ever read….well….let me give you a review about your review.

    Yep…ya get points for the uniform comment but not much else. Again, you were just plain mean in this review…and at the end you have a simple conclusion….recommended or not recommended. I look forward to having you change that into a star rating or another rating system that is less of a cop out for the critic and more productive for the actor, audience and the theater experience in general.

    Nurturing actors/artists and the like through criticism is a talent. You need to work on this. I can help you. I’m an appretice actor in town and business guy…and I will tell you that your “type” of review does a HUGE injustice to the struggling/inspired/risk taking actors and theater companies in this town. Shame on you.

    So the next time you pull that pen out of where ever you keep it……think of your job as more of a contributor to the theater world through criticism here rather than one of castrator. I’m not saying I look forward to your further reviews…but I will read them.

  • I have established myself over the past 12 years as a friend of theatre with my reviews and my interview podcasts on so your observations that I’m mean is unfounded. After reviewing over 300 plays a year for more than 10 years, the good and the bad plays standout. True that I have more “Not recommended” reviews than anyone else but I also have more “Highly Recommended” reviews that most reviewers. I’m not a friend of “Somewhat Recommended” rating that many reviewers use. Folks tell me that they dislike “Somewhat Recommended’ because they want to know if a given show is worth their time and money to see. Therefore, i avoid indirect ratings as much as possible.
    Tom Williams

  • Ok Tom….I’ll take back the mean and trade ya for snarky. But I can’t go any higher than.

    I’m wanna lay out a communicative opportunity with the hope you will join me. Given your provenance as a critic in this town…..many other critics may take heed of this idea with your endorsement. I’ll explain further down……but this would, I think, take the uniqueness and power of the Chicago storefront and combine it with the new uniqueness and power of the critic.

    First, I wanna talk about the bad economics associated with recommended/not recommended. There are no variables here…theater is nothing but variables….so a two comment system is not communicative enought given the variables of/in the theater.

    We all want theater to thrive and stay alive in this town. A “not-recommended”…..would surely have a negitave cash impact on that dreaming start up storefront that is pushing it’s way with big energized youthful dreams and providing a venue for talent that is just bursting at the seams to perform.

    How can any of us…whether patrons or critics not want more!!! …..This is CHICAGO THEATER…..We are different than the rest…so let’s figure out a critical system that is as different as we are. I am not saying to not “crack the whip”…..but lets do it with a touch of mentoring and pass on the salt.

    So to start the conversation…..would you be open to working out a 4 or 5 point star of review system that eventually become known as the “Chicago Standard?” The economics of keeping a theater company alive are beyond tough…Whats say we figure something out here…..crank up the critical commentary with the addition of a more well defined rating system that adds openness to the decisions of patrons to whether or not to by a ticket……if even for that one “radiant” scene that is worth going for…[email protected].

    A new system would be a blessing for the storefront. Much more to talk about….so now I’m askin ya out to lunch to discuss more if you wish.

  • If you have been following my site for sometime, you’ll see that I have a 4 part rating system.

    Not recommended—for everything, bad acting, too long, too boring, etc.

    Somewhat Recommended—for shows that have problems, even major ones, yet has many strong things going for it. You have mixed feeling and/or a show has good qualities, but you simply didn’t like it, but you know others may like it.

    Recommended —can be for show you think are ok, or good but not great or shows that have one small thing wrong or it would be a highly recommended.
    I have recommended shows that I barely liked but the show had a lot going for it and I have recommended shows that I loved but thought they had a minor flaw.

    Highly Recommended—for the top-notch shows that are terrific on almost every level—from great, great show to outstanding shows. This rating is telling readers to spend their money and time at this particular show. Use this with caution.

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