Bloodshot

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By Douglas Post.bloodshot-8609

Starring Simon Slater.

Directed by Patrick Sandford.

Produced by The Greenhouse Theater Center and Ingenious Purpose Ltd.

One Man Becomes an Entire City’s Underside.

A one-man noir story? It’s a strange idea, but the British drama Bloodshot has been touring Europe to critical acclaim since 2011, and is now making its American debut at The Greenhouse Theater Center as part of the Solo Celebration series. Unlike the other Solo stories thus far, which were about real people, and often drawn from the performers’ own lives, Bloodshot is entirely fictional. Its twisting story and diabolical atmosphere are reminiscent of the murder mysteries of the mid-twentieth century, such as Ira Levin’s Death Trap, which recently played at Drury Lane. Simon Slater, the actor who takes on the role in this unusually long and demanding production, is a top-level performer, and over the course of the show, he demonstrates not only his strength as an actor, but in several other types of performance, as well.

The main character, Derek Everleigh, is about to hurl himself off a bridge when he feels the need to explain himself to the audience. It is 1957 London, and he’s an ex-cop whose experience photographing murder scenes and bombing damage from The Blitz led him to both PTSD and alcoholism. After being dismissed, he found a second career secretly photographing women out in public, and sold them to whomever thinks voyeurism is the way of capturing artistic truth. But that income stream has gone dry, as well, and Everleigh was in an uncomfortable position until he received a mysterious letter asking him to photograph one particular woman: an immigrant from the Caribbean named Cassandra. He does so, first for the money, then because he becomes infatuated with her, and after stalking her for weeks, he misses her death by gunshot by mere seconds.

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Determined to find Cassandra’s killer, Everleigh descends back into the murky London underground, where he encounters three of Cassandra’s enemies: a ukulele-playing R-rated Irish comic, a saxophone-playing American jazz musician, and a razor-swallowing Russian magician and impresario. Slater not only plays these other parts, he also deftly performs their songs and tricks. The three shady figures are each distinctly vile, but retain Slater’s charisma. Further filling out the world of the play are the imaginative lighting designs of David W Kidd and the props managed by Holly McCauley. At back are projected several of the photographs referred to in the story, including dozens of Cassandra.

Everleigh is an anti-hero who requires villains like the other three characters to look good by comparison, and as in film noir, the mystery is hard to guess mainly because it’s so convoluted. The journey, however, is quite enjoyable. Douglas Post has given Everleigh dialogue that is snarky, but covers a sensitive soul, and Slater has worked with director Patrick Sandford to make every moment seem realistic, even when the audience’s imagination is supplying most of the details. As a play, Bloodshot is intuiting; as a celebration of a one-person performance, it is astounding.

Recommended.

Jacob Davis.

Playing at The Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago. Tickets are $34-48; to order, call 773-404-7336 or visit greenhousetheater.org Performances are Wednesdays-Fridays at 8:00 pm, and Saturdays and Sundays at 2:30 and 8:00 pm through September 10. Running time is two hours with one intermission.

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