REVIEWSREVIEWS BYTheatre ReviewsTom Williams



a short play-cycle by Neil LaButethe den

Directed by Andrew Jessop

Produced by Awkward Pause Theatre

At the Den, Chicago

Repetitive dialogue and lack of enunciation hurts autobahn

Neil LaBute is like a bitter herbal tea, it (and he) is an acquired taste. I generally like and admire his plays. he sure has a glowing in Chicago due to the numerous productions of his work at Profiles Theatre.  LaBute’s autobahn was produced there in 2006 and it played as a series of dark comic vignettes.  The fledgling Awkward Pause Theatre’s production of autobahn, now playing at The Den, is devoid of much of the dark humor. Rather this play-cycle is composed of seven two character skits.

the den

I have several issues with this production. First, LaBute’s writing is often  repetitious as he rephrases so often that it became tedious to listen to. Next, the cast was a mixed bag of young players. Several of the females, especially Erin O’ Shea, not only mumbled often but spoke so fast and ran their words together that much of their dialogue became incomprehensible. It is becoming a theatrical disease here in Chicago with young actors running their words together in a rapid cadence. This creates an unconscious monotone that turns off audiences.

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In ‘funny’ Young Girl (Jennifer Betancourt) recites a long monologue about her drug rehab experiences to a stoic nonspeaking mother (Halle Beverage.)

In ‘bench seat,’ we meet Guy (Matt Katzenmeier) who takes his ride up to lover’s lane with Girl (Erin O’ Shea) who thinks he is going to dump her like her last grad student did. This could have been marvelously performed scene by O’ Shea if she would slow down and stop running her words together. She  puts a new spin on ‘crazy girl fiends.’ Katzenmeier’s facial expression tells of his bewilderment that hints fear.

‘All apologies’ finds Man (Gavin Robinson) cleverly fixating on words, meanings and connotations as he desperately tries to apologize to his silent wife,  Woman (Catherine Dildilian). LaBute’s humor and wit abounds in this terrific scene. Too bad the wording became tediously redundant.

the denautobahn115

In ‘merge,’ Woman (Halle Beverage) questions her husband about his business trip as Man (Lee Wichman) deliciously and bluntly recalls waking up nude after letting two men into his room at the convention the night before. Beverage’s mixture of rage and curiosity works well. This cycle was also over written and repetitious.

‘Long division’ finds Guy 1 (Mike Hamilton) delivering a funny monologue about how Guy 2 (Matt Katzenmeier) needs to show his recently broken up girl whose boss by retrieving his video game. This cycle was marred by Hamilton’s too fast, running his words together speech patterns. Slow down!

 In ‘road trip,’ LaBute’s eerie scene, we find Man (Tony St.Clair) as the friendly older coach/driver’s Ed instructor taking a two day ride with the cute naive student Girl (Alison Hixon). Are they relatives or is there a sinister motive from the coach? The last few seconds reveals all. This was the most dramatically tense scene of the night.

 In ‘autobahn,’ Woman (Catherine Dildilian) delivers a compelling monologue about returning their criminal foster son to the orphanage after several harrowing events. Man (Gavin Robinson) speaks volumes with uttering a word of dialogue- his tearing eyes said it all

 If this cast would try slowing down and punching out their words clearer, than the production could sizzle.

Somewhat Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

For more info checkout the autobahn page at

At The Den, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL,, tickets $10, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 1 hour 45 minutes with intermission, through December 29, 2013



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