Theatre ReviewsTom Williams


The Modern Comparablecherrywood by kirk lynn

By Kirk Lynn

Directed by David Cromer

Produced by Mary-Arrchie Theatre, Chicago

At Angel Island

Large cast experimental work has its provocative moments

Mary-Arrchie Theatre and David Cromer and an experimental play are an explosive mixture destined to evoke strong reactions. With a cast of 49 (yes, 49!), set designer Andre LaSalle had to dismantle the basic layout of  Angel Island turning it into a shabby apartment rectangle setting with audience on all four sides.   When the entire cast is onstage, which is for most of the play, the space is wall-to-wall people.

cherrywood by kirk lynn

I have mixed feeling about Cherrywood since I’m still thinking about it. My research determined that Kirk Lynn wrote Cherrywood “as a simple list of lines, a play without characters, allowing actors to assemble their roles from the lines they chose to speak.” I’m not sure how much of the above that director David Cromer allowed? I do know that Cherrywood is more of a theatrical event, a sort of happening, than a conventional play. It has a basic structure and several ongoing motifs despite a meandering dialogue spiced with socio-political rants and references “for anyone who wants to change.”

cherrywood by kirk lynn

Cherrywood begins with a housewarming party wherein a red flyer promotes “party tonight for anyone who wants to change.” The word gets out and the party attracts a large group of mostly 20-30somethings poor souls in search of sex and free beer. The group appears to be Avenue Q rejects who are being cajoled into drinking a special milk drink that promises to make them into powerful werewolves. The milk promises personal transformation for these alienated souls. Posing the question: if you could change one thing about yourself, would you do it?

At its height, the party is one  gathering of folks who don’t know one another and they find it difficult to communicate their thoughts to each other. There is loads of drinking, a long line to the bathroom with necking and dancing and loads of babbling dialogue from a group of intensely uptight and restless anti-social 20-30somethings. The story changes with each blackout until a gunshot shoots one of the older folks.

After the gunshot, the party becomes a mysterious whodunit that tensely turns into an inquisition. A strong sense of community dynamic emerges as leaders dictate the rules of this newly formed society. Large themes are referenced as fear, control, and apprehension rule the party.

The acting from many of the 49 cast members was emotional, sensual and riveting. Kudos to director David Cromer for navigating his cast through the maze of raw escapism happening in the manic atmosphere. Carlo Lorenzo Garcia leads the talented cast.

Cherrywood is a provocative and challenging work that will leave story-structured theatre patrons scratching their heard asking: “What is the play about?” Fans of large, very large ensemble work performed with liberal freedom by the cast in a experimental structure will find Cherrywood a treat. It sure is different. Serious theatre partons and theatre professionals should take in Cherrywood to see if Cromer’s intriguing staging can make  art from a shaky incomplete script. You may not like Cherrywood, but you’ll be glad you experienced this unique theatrical event. I’m still not sure what to make of Cherrywood as I’m still digesting it.


Tom Williams

Jeff Recommended

At Angel Island, 731 W. Sheridan Road, Chicago, tickets $18 – $22, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 7 pm, running time is 90 minutes without intermission, through August 8, 2010

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