By George F. Walker
Directed by Rob Chambers
Produced by Theatre Mir
At Chicago DCA Theater
Unfunny parable unfolds as a over-acted cartoon
Canadian playwright George F. Walker’s 1987, Beautiful City, is called a parable but it plays like a silly comic-strip fable that simply collapses due its manic, over-the-top performances. Filled with buffoonish over-acting, especially by Yosh Hayashi, as Tony Raft – the gangster obsessed with building condos and a mall in the intercity; Mira Vasiljevic as Gina Mae Sabatini, the witch with powers to change people; and Jeremy Kahn, as Stevie Moore, the young want-to-be but not-too-smart criminal, Beautiful City is a mess. Those three main characters were so exaggerated, so loud, and so much clowning that their characters were reduced to caricatures.
In beautiful City, we meet an architect with severe stomach pains, his shaky brother, a wacky hospital volunteer, a ditsy witch, a ‘modern’ police detective, and a crime family led by a stern matriarch. The cast tries to push the comic elements too hard replacing comic timing with screaming, physical gestures and strange accents. The cast acted like players on meth or speed.
The opening night audience, filled with many friends of the cast, hardly laughed as there wasn’t much hoot about. The uneven pacing, the multiple blackout scene changes, and the short episodic scenes each contributed to a thin story that was both predictable and devoid of humor. The social satire played like a Saturday Night Live sketch but without the humor. This flat show was too goofy to be funny. I blame the writing, the over acting and the clumsy staging.
When you attempt to mount a biting satire that is a cartoon fairy tale complete with a witch – don’t play it silly because you lose the sharp bite necessary to sustain the satire. Beautiful City lacks plausibility. The shallow characters gave us no one to cheer for especially as the confusing action deteriorated into fluff. I couldn’t find much to admire in this two hour long off-kilter attempt at comedy.
At the Storefront, 66 E. Randolph, Chicago, IL