At Profiles Theatre, Chicago
Gritty two-hander rehashes twenty year old love affair.
When we enter the Profiles’ runway stage, we are greeted by a filthy toilet as we enter a trailer located in rural Colorado. We meet Ulysses (Darrell W. Cox), a dirty middle aged man who appears to have given up on life as he struggles to survive. He stopped bathing and he only wears an apron around the house. He eats spoiled meat, breathes with the aid of an oxygen machine. He appears to be dying. Katie-Bell Springmann’s set design sure sets up the tone for this drama.
When a well-dresses middle aged woman, Emma (LisaD. Mortensen), bursts into the trailer, both Ulysses and her are stunned at what they see. He is surprised to see her after twenty years. She is stunned to see the squalor he now live in. It does stretch credulity that Emma doesn’t simply run out the door and not look back.
But in the hands of two skilled actors, we see Mortensen’s eyes evoke that old spark that led to her marriage with the former cowboy-poet. We see Cox, while deeply into the destructive character that Ulysses have become, genuinely surprised to see his old flame. Emma has an agenda that leads her to encounter her ex after two decades. Gradually over the 85 minute one-act, we learn the how and the why that these two marrieds separated. The ravages of alcoholism and low self-esteem work to destroy the famed poet Ulysses while Emma attempts to be both a working literary agent and mother to their infant child.
As they two battle over events from that day Emma left Ulysses, both learn the truths of exactly what happened that day that forced Emma to run away with their son. Both have suffered the consequences of that event with other self-imposed actions that have made the last twenty years tough on both. But, with their son (now twenty-five years old) about to visit his father since both Emma and the son know that Ulysses is terminally ill, Emma want to set the record straight as to what actually happened that night. Once she sees how Ulysses is living, she is determined to make him presentable to his son.
We witness during this strange reunion the rage of the years and the compassion of the vulnerable that still can convey a tiny spark despite they ravages of time. Only in the hands of such skilled players as Cox and Mortensen can this script become plausible. Darrel Cox is too deeply entrenched in his character that leads him to slur, mumble, grunt his speech that renders much of his dialogue unintelligible. Mortensen’s love and compassion carries the show. Top flight acting saves playwright Sharr White’s weak script. Intense Chicago-style acting is a marvel to witness.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: June 27, 2014
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At profiles Theatre, The Alley Stage, 4147 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL, call 773-549-1815, tickets $35 – $40, Thursdays 7 Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 5 & 8 pm, Sundays at 7 pm, running time is 85 minutes without intermission, through July 20, 2014