The Casuals

By Chance Bone & Andrew Swansonjackalope theatre

Directed by Jonathan Berry

Produced by Jackalope Theatre Company

At DCA Storefront Theatre, Chicago

Trust is tested as a little white lie and a huge lie effect the folks living in 1950’s  Nevada

In Chance Bone and Andrew Burden Swanson’s world premiere drama, The Casuals, we meet Richard (Ed Dzialo), an ex-Army radio host as he starts a new career as a government interviewer for special projects. When a relative, Tom (Morgan Maher) arrives in his desert community with his new bride, the past family history about how Tom’s father and Richard’s brother died during WWII, causes a breach of trust among the family.

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Things come to a head as a neighborhood boy has a birthday party and the government conducts another atom bomb test in the desert. Told in a series of flashbacks (that could be  presented clearer), The Casuals accurately depicts the world of the 1950’s as conformity and trust in government and family relations was easily established. If the family was  told a story, all simply believed it and since the government got us through the world war, we trusted them to protect us. Hope ran high as post-war prosperity and social conformity allowed the American Dream to flourish.  But The Casuals depicts a few kinks in the amour of the American Dream.

Richard is the keeper of both the family secrets and a functionary in government keep secrets. We see how Richard’s conscious caused him to drink as he gradually internally questions the government’s secrecy about the effects of nuclear testing on the population early on in his career. He eventually values the security of a government job more than his doubts.

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Tom and his wife are early non-conformists to the conservative social values that dictated one should get an education, get married and find a secure  job. Tom wants to let things happen as he hates planning and security. He is a free spirit who questions the status quo. When the family secret is revealed, Tom’s trust in Richard is threatened and his relations with his wife are also shattered.

Richard’s guilt dictates that he aid Lucille (Somer Benson)  and her 12 year old son, Tim (Sam Kyrzydlo) since the boy has leukemia -possibly from the effects of atom bomb testing nearby.

The Casuals features excellent work from Ed Dzialo as Richard with nice supporting performances from Morgan Maher, as Tom, and Somer Benson as Lucille.

The Casuals could use a clearer timeline earlier on but eventually, if you stay with the story, the payoff is there. We see how the conformity and basic trust folks  had in the 50’s allowed families to hide shameful events and allowed government to hide dangerous activities. Bone and Swanson’s script is subtle, insightful, and accurate in depicting the values of American society in post-war era. Their story is a precursor to the radical changes that happened in the 60’s as trust in family, society and government eroded.  The Casuals takes some patience early on but it delivers its message most compellingly. Bone and Swanson’s unique collaboration results in a stage worthy play.  At only $15 per ticket, The Casuals is a bargain!

Recommended

Tom Williams

For more info checkout The Casuals page at theatreinchicago.com

At The Storefront Theatre, 66 E. Randolph, Chicago, IL, www.jackalopetheatre.org, call 773-340-2543, tickets $15,  Thursdays & Fridays at 7:30 pm, Saturdays & Sundays at 2 & 7:30 pm, running time is 2hours, 15 minutes with intermission, through July 28, 2013